California is known as the Golden State. The state flag is the bear flag, which was first raised in 1846 by American settlers during an uprising against rule from Mexico. The state flower is the Golden Poppy (Eschscholtzia california) and it blooms somewhere in California every month of the year. The state motto is "Eureka" which appears on the Great Seal of the State. It's a Greek word meaning "I have found it." In California, it refers to the discovery of gold in 1848, which led to the Gold Rush in 1849.
California is the home of many firsts and beginnings. Mountain biking was invented in Mill Valley and first tested on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County in the early 1970s.The first national amateur snowboarding championship, sponsored by the U.S. Amateur Snowboarding Association, was at Snow Valley near Big Bear Lake in 1990.If you've ever eaten at a Denny's, Carl's Jr., Taco Bell, A&W, or Bob's Big Boy, you've eaten at a restaurant chain that started in California.The world's first cable car rumbled down the streets of San Francisco in 1873. Today, cable cars are still a popular means of transportation for both visitors and residents.Plumas County is the birthplace of downhill ski racing in the Western Hemisphere.Built in 1883, Ballards Little Red Schoolhouse in Solvang is the oldest schoolhouse still in use.The Venice Beach stretch of the Los Angeles area's 22-mile-long South Bay Bike Path has been called the "unofficial in-line skating capital of the world." The Perilous Plunge water slide at Knott's Berry Farm is the steepest, tallest, and wettest water slide on the planet.Superman: The Escape, a roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain north of Los Angeles, is the world's fastest and tallest thrill ride, reaching 100 mph in seven seconds and standing 41 stories high. Universal Studios was the first motion picture studio to offer tours, which cost 25 cents in 1915.
California has more theme parks and amusement parks than any other state.The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is California's oldest amusement park. The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is California's oldest operating roller coaster. "Superman The Escape" at Six Flags Magic Mountain, is the world's fastest and tallest thrill ride - it goes from 0 to 100 mph in 7 seconds and is 415 feet tall (41 stories). "The Viper" at Six Flags Magic Mountain is the world's largest looping roller coaster. It is 188 feet high, 3,380 feet long, goes upside down 7 times, and reaches speeds up to 70 mph. "The Colossus" at Six Flags Magic Mountain is the world's highest capacity roller coaster.Knott's Berry Farm, which opened in 1940, is America's oldest theme park. "The Timber Mountain Log Ride" at Knott's Berry Farm, which opened in 1969, was America's first log flume ride. "Bigfoot Rapids" at Knott's Berry Farm is California's longest man made white water river. Knott's Berry Farm is the site of America's first 360-degree looping roller coaster (Opened in 1975, replaced in 1990). The San Diego Wild Animal Park hosts the only Northern White Rhinoceroses in the Western hemisphere. World Famous San Diego Zoo boasts the world's largest zoological society membership, with members in more than a quarter million households. The Zoo hosts the most comprehensive collection of deer in the world, with 17 species.California's only nudist colony exhibit exists at the San Diego Zoo -- naked mole-rats in the Children's Zoo. The world's first digital theme park (virtual reality) is located in Pasadena. Two of the top ten amusement parks (by 1999 attendance) in the U.S. are located in California. They are Disneyland, and Universal Studios, (#2, and #7, respectively).
California has fascinating flora and fauna. California's coastal redwood, the State Tree, is also the world's tallest tree. Some are taller than a 36-story building.The General Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia found in Sequoia National Park, is the biggest living thing on earth. It weighs about 2.7 million pounds, contains enough wood to build 40 five-room houses - and is still growing.
The General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park, another famous sequoia, is known as "The Nation's Christmas Tree." The General Grant's trunk is 40 feet around at its base and is wider than a three-lane freeway.
California's White Mountains have a grove of bristle-cone pines believed to be the world's oldest trees. Some were born more than 4,000 years ago, which means they're similar in age to the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
The Moreton Bay fig tree in Santa Barbara has branches that reach more than 160 feet, more than half the length of a football field. On a sunny day, it can provide shade for more than 10,000 people.
Each year, as many as 300,000 seabirds visit the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco. That's the largest number of breeding seabirds in the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska. At Ano Nuevo State Reserve south of San Francisco, thousands of enormous elephant seals swim ashore each winter. Male seals, which weigh up to 5,000 pounds, battle each other on the beach to decide who gets to rule. Lava Beds National Monument and the adjoining Klamath Basic National Wildlife Refuge in Northern California have more bald eagles than any other area in the U.S. outside Alaska. Trillions of tiny brine shrimp live in salty Mono Lake east of Yosemite National Park. The shrimp are food for grebes and nearly 70 other species of migrating birds that visit the lake. They also attract 50,000 California gulls annually. Every year, thousands of monarch butterflies fly from as far away as Colorado's Rocky Mountains to winter in eucalyptus groves in Pacific Grove, Pismo Beach, and elsewhere. When they migrate, the latest generation of butterflies knows to return to the exact same trees as its ancestors, even though they've never been there before. At nearly 700,000 gallons, the Shark encounter exhibit at SeaWorld in San Diego is the world's largest display of sharks.
California, which lies along the boundary of two great plates (the Pacific and North American), is prime earthquake country. Earthquakes are measured on a scale of up to 10 points. The 1989 San Francisco earthquake was 7.1, while the quake that struck Los Angeles in 1994 was a 6.8 - both very big. But the 1906 San Francisco earthquake - an 8.3 - was a real dish rattler. Most of the city had to be rebuilt after that one.
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