This map plots the settings and references in The Grapes of Wrath

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California Almond Orchard
Creative Commons AttributionCalifornia Almond Orchard - Credit: Suzi Rosenberg

 California is bounded by the Pacific Coast, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Mojave Desert and Redwood/Douglas fir forests. This diversity of environment continues within the state. 

California holds the highest point in the United States (Mount Whitney) and the lowest (Death Valley). Temperatures range from Mediterranean to subarctic.  45% of the state is forest and 25% is desert. It contains the greatest variety of pine species in the USA, and has some of the oldest trees on the planet. One Bristlecone pine is 4,700 years old.

California has the largest gross state product in the US at $1.8 trillion, yet it also has one of the highest unemployment rates at 9.3%.  It has nearly 500 different cities and towns, most of which are concentrated in three areas: 68% of the population inhabit the Greater Los Angeles Area, the San Fransisco Bay Area and the Riverside-San Bernadino Area.

Originally, California was inhabited by over 70 different groups of Native Americans, but Spanish missionaries began moving into the land in the late 1700s, settling in an area viewed as a remote province of Mexico.  Settlers from the US and Canada began arriving in the early 1800s. They became so numerous that by 1846 they could fight the Mexicans in the Bear Flag Revolt and win.  The Mexican-American War cemented US control of California in 1847.  But the diverse nationality of settlers means that California now has the largest minority population in the states, making up over 57%. 


Central Valley
Creative Commons AttributionCentral Valley - Credit: John Martinez Pavliga

Since 1900 the population has grown from less than one million to 37 million, making it the most populous state in America.  Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway made crossing the desert safer, and events such as the California Gold Rush and the Dust Bowl contributed greatly to the increase in population.


California has proved popular because of its agriculture, and more recently the entertainment and computer industries.  It's one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, and it provides a third of the nation's food.  Most agriculture is based in the Central Valley of California, which is very flat and has a Mediterranean climate ideal for cultivation.