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The California Region, Natural Features
fault-block mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sierra Nevadas, San Joaquin River, Sacramento River
There are three broad subregions within this area: the coastal mountains, valleys, and plains; the Central Valley; and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The coastal mountains parallel the coastline and display prominent fault lines, of which the most widely known is the San Andreas. The coastal plain is narrow and heavily populated and includes giant metropolitan areas, specifically San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. The Central Valley consists of a broad trough, 100 to 160 km (60 to 100 mi) wide and more than 720 km (450 mi) long, filled with sediment carried down in runoff from nearby mountains. The valley of the Sacramento River dominates the northern portion, and the San Joaquin River dominates the southern half. The Sierra Nevadas are rugged, fault-block mountains with evidence of glacial erosion, such as the impressive deep-cut valleys of Yosemite National Park.
The California region lies at the convergence of the North American and Pacific tectonic crustal plates. Tectonic plates are large blocks of the earth’s crust that are moving slowly across the surface of the earth. As these plates collide and grind against each other, they generate tremendous energy. In California, the forces generated by the friction of these plates create an unstable crustal zone that causes severe earthquakes. Major fault lines trend in a northwest to southeast direction and much of the area's landscape is adorned with fault lines and other characteristic fault features.
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