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Notes on the Geography of The Western United States: Sierra Nevada and Central Valley

Yosemite, the Sierra foothills, and the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys.

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The Western United States: Sierra Nevada and Central Valley picture 1

El Capitan, close to living rock when viewed from its base on a hot summer day, when the rock is very warm. Massive as it seems, the base is mantled by an extensive apron of blocks that have broken free.

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Of course there are utilitarian ways of seeing these mountains. That's the story of Hetch Hetchy, one valley to the north of Yosemite but still in the national park. The City of San Francisco built a dam here to capture a cheap water supply from the public lands.

The Western United States: Sierra Nevada and Central Valley picture 3

Hetch Hetchy from afar.

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Its dam.

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Buckeye seen from the road that leads down to Visalia from Sequoia National Park.

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A sawmill's stock near Chinese Camp, in the foothills west of Yosemite.

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Down on the floor of the San Joaquin Valley's dry West Side, with the Pyramid Hills in the background.  (Photo from 1967.)

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Farther north, an archaic automobile ferry crosses the Sacramento River.

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In the delta: water, water everywhere--in this case at Rio Vista.

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Irrigation, here with siphon tubes for alfalfa, has been the heart of the Central Valley's economy for a long time.

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The valley became synonymous with agriculture on the grand scale.

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Oranges were planted in groves so immense that from a distance the trees seem like blades of grass. Near Porterville.

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East of Fresno. The air reeked, and the soil burned the bare feet of anyone stupid enough to walk around in sandals.

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A flagger guides an approaching and low-flying plane that is spraying (or fertilizing?) an immense rice paddy.

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The valley plays a supporting role in the continuing saga of California as paradise.

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But farmers are becoming scarcer as the valley becomes more urban with the arrival of desperate commuters from Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Here, Merrie Olde Englande, south of Davis.


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