Description - California's breadbasket, the great Central Valley, stretches for 450 miles down the center of the state, from Willows to Bakersfield. This region includes a wealth of culturally diverse communities, historic sites, exceptional outdoor recreation, abundant wildlife and the California Delta - a unique 1,000 mile waterway fed by five major rivers.
Copyright: California State Parks
A lone tree in Turlock Lake SRA
Acres and acres of grapes, from some of the largest wineries in the state, give way to fields of tomatoes, squash, corn, peppers, and just about every other crop imaginable, all made possible by a series of rivers-the San Joaquin, Merced, Kings, and Kern-as well as the great California Aqueduct. Take time to stop along the way to taste almonds in Modesto, raisins in Kingsburg, or prunes in Yuba City. Better yet, snack your way across the farm trails around Visalia, Fresno, and Bakersfield.
- The waters of the Central Valley provide more than just irrigation to crops, however. There's leisurely houseboating and fishing along the California Delta, where deep dredging allows container ships to travel inland from the Bay Area to Sacramento, and adrenaline-producing whitewater rafting, particularly in spring and early summer, down any number of Sierra-fed streams. In fact, despite their emphasis on farming, towns like Merced, Visalia, and Fresno are just as well known as gateways to three national parks: Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon. Bakersfield, in the southern end of the valley, is the perfect base for exploring not only the Mojave Desert, but also Tule Elk State Reserve, home to a rare herd of the smallest elk in the world.
Wildlife is abundant throughout the valley. Sandhill cranes perform their amusing mating dance at Cosumnes River Preserve, near Lodi, while Canada geese, pintail ducks, and millions of other wildfowl make the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, south of Willows, a stop along the Pacific Flyway between August and February. And while the great outdoors certainly holds sway here in the Central Valley, you'll find a range of fascinating cultural landmarks as well, from the Kern County Museum's Pioneer Village, with its more than 50 buildings restored as an early 20th-century town, to Locke, once the home of thousands of Chinese immigrants brought in to build the state's Delta levees and railroads, and now a living reminder of those times.
The Central Valley Region features portions of the Mendocino National Forest in the north, two state parks, eight state recreation areas, four state historic parks, and one state reserve.
Recreation - Some of the most popular recreation activities available in the Central Valley include swimming, boating, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, picnicking, and camping. In addition, the areas numerous wildlife refuges offer many wildlife viewing and bird watching opportunities.
Climate - A generally warm, dry climate prevails in the Central Valley. Weather is normally hot in the summer and mild in the winter. Precipitation in the Central Valley falls mainly from October through April in the form of rain. Winter temperatures below freezing produce frost, however, snow is very rare. The foggy season is November through February. The fog usually burns off by mid-day. From March through October the sun shines 90 percent of the time. Daytime summer temperatures above 100 degrees are part of the normal pattern.
The Central Valley Region stretches 450 miles down the center of the state, from Willows in the north to Bakersfield in the south. It includes the cities of Davis, Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield. The main highway accessing this region is I-5.