California is the most populous state of the United States. Located on the Pacific coast of North America, it is bordered by Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico. The state's four largest cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San José and San Francisco. California is known for its pleasant climate and ethnically diverse population. The state presently has 58 counties.-----------------Inhabited by indigenous people for several millennia, California was first colonized by the Spanish in 1769, and gained independence becoming part of Mexico in 1821. Following a brief period as the independent California Republic in 1846, California was annexed by the United States that same year, but wasn't actually admitted to the Union until Millard Fillmore officially made California the thirty-first state on September 9, 1850. ---------------- California's diverse geography ranges from the sandy beaches of the Pacific to the rugged, snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the east. The central portion of the state is dominated by the California Central Valley and the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most vital agricultural areas in the country. The Yosemite Valley, famous for its glacially-carved cliffs, is located near the California-Nevada border, along with Sequoia National Park, home to the largest living beings on Earth, the Giant Sequoia trees, and the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney. The tallest living beings on Earth, ancient Redwood trees, dot the Northern California coastline. California is also home to the lowest and hottest place in the Western Hemisphere: Death Valley, just 75 miles from Mount Whitney in the Mojave Desert. ----------- The Gold Rush dramatically changed California with an influx of population and an economic boom. The early part of the 20th century was marked by California becoming the center of the entertainment industry in addition to the beginning of growth of a large tourism sector. The Central Valleys are home to California's important large agricultural industry. In recent decades, California has become a global leader in computers and information technology. Indeed, if California were a country, it would rank as the 8th largest economy of the world.