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By far the most populous state of the United States is California.
Located in the southwestern corner of the United States, California is home to a great diversity of natural environments and cultural influences.
In the year 2000, over 33 million people lived in California.
California's many mountains and valleys produce a wide variety of climates and natural regions.
In the interior, southeastern parts of the state are many areas of desert.
For example, Death Valley, which is so deep that it is below sea level, is extremely dry.
Temperatures in Death Valley sometimes exceed 50 degrees Celsius.
Other valleys are more pleasant and hospitable places.
In the central valley, many farms grow vast amounts of fruits and vegetables.
California also contains many tall, snow-covered mountains.
On the slopes of some mountains are forests that have very large trees.
Some of the giant redwood trees of California reach heights of 100 metres or more.
Many of the cities in California have Spanish names.
This is because many of those cities began as religious missions that were started by Spanish priests.
Mexico owned California during the early nineteenth century, but few Mexican people lived there.
The United States gained control of California during the 1840s, and the discovery of gold brought many Americans and others to California.
Today, California contains some of the largest cities in the United States.
Within the greater Los Angeles area, one can find Hollywood, known as the movie capital of the world.
Many rich people live in suburbs such as Beverly Hills, and many poor people live
in other neighborhoods throughout the city.
The Los Angeles area is home to over 15 million people, many of whom have immigrated to the United States from Mexico and from many Asian countries.
Los Angeles is a very large city that has spread across a great area.
As a consequence, the city has many traffic jams and air pollution, or smog, is sometimes a problem.
Further north is the city of San Francisco, one of the most beautiful cities of the United States.
The image of the Golden Gate Bridge, which crosses the harbour of San Francisco, is famous around the world.
Also famous are the hilly streets of San Francisco and the trolley cars that provide transportation along them.
San Francisco's Chinese community is one of the largest in North America, and the city also contains a vibrant artistic and cultural life.
San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake in 1906 and was damaged again in 1989.
California has always had a special place in the imagination of Americans.
This is hardly surprising, given the variety and diversity of this vast state!