Southern California – the Most Populous Region of the State
Presented by Travel Quiz Weekly
“Southern California” is not a formal geographic designation, and definitions of what constitutes Southern California vary. When the state is divided into two areas (northern and southern California), the term “Southern California” usually refers to the ten southern-most counties of the state. Another definition for southern California uses Point Conception and the Tehachapi Mountains as the northern boundary.
Though there is no official definition for the northern boundary of southern California, such a division has existed from the time when Mexico ruled California. The state is most commonly divided and promoted by its regional tourism groups as consisting of northern, central, and southern California regions.
Landscape and Geography
The area consists of varied collections of geologic, topographic, and natural ecosystem landscapes in a diversity outnumbering other major regions in the state and country. The region spans from Pacific Ocean islands, shorelines, beaches, and coastal plains, through the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, into large and small interior valleys, all the way to the vast deserts of California.
Southern California is also divided into:
The Coastal Region, densely populated and with more wealth than inland areas. This region includes the coastal interior valleys west of the coastal mountains with all of Orange County and portions of San Diego, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties.
The Desert Region, larger and sparsely populated, with portions of Kern, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial, and San Diego counties. The division between the Coastal Region and the Inland Empire/Imperial Valley winds along the backs of the coastal mountain ranges such as the Santa Ana Mountains.
Do 10,000 earthquakes every year sound like a lot? Well the region has about that many each year. Most of them are very small and are not felt. Several hundred are greater than magnitude 3.0, and maybe 15–20 are greater than magnitude 4.0.
On August 26, 2012 an earthquake occurred, which was a swarm of over 200 events, two which had magnitudes of 5.3 and 5.5. Many faults, such as the San Andreas Fault, are able to produce magnitude 6.7+ earthquakes. Other faults include the San Jacinto Fault, the Puente Hills Fault, and the Elsinore Fault Zone.
That’s bad news for me since I live in Lake Elsinore. During the twenty six years I’ve lived here, I believe there was just one earthquake I felt and knew about that was the result of an earthquake on the Elsinore Fault.
A Large Metropolitan Area
Southern California is a giant metropolitan area in the southern portion of the US state of California. It includes Greater Los Angeles and Greater San Diego. This area generally comprises California’s southernmost 10 counties, stretching along the coast from about San Luis Obispo County to the United States and Mexico border, and from the Pacific Ocean inland to the Nevada and Arizona borders.
Much of Southern California is famous for its large, spread-out, suburban communities and use of automobiles and highways (Freeways). This heavily populated urban area stretches along the coast from Ventura, through the Greater Los Angeles Area, the Inland Empire and down to San Diego. Southern California is a major economic center for the state of California and the entire United States.
There are three heavy populated areas in Southern California: the Los Angeles area with over 12 million inhabitants, the Riverside-San Bernardino area with over 4 million inhabitants, and the San Diego area with over 3 million inhabitants.
The five counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura all combined make up the Greater Los Angeles Area with over 17.5 million people. With over 22 million people, southern California contains roughly 60% of California’s population.
Further east in southern California are the Colorado Desert. The Colorado River is at the border with the state of Arizona and the Mojave Desert at the border with the state of Nevada. To the south lies the international border with Mexico and to the west is the Pacific Ocean.
Biggest Cities – most Populated Counties
There are two major cities within southern California, Los Angeles and San Diego plus three of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. With a population of 3,792,621, Los Angeles is the most populous city in California and the second most populous in the United States.
To the south about 120 miles via I-5 Freeway, with a population of 1,307,402 is San Diego, the second most populous city in the state and the 8th most populous in the nation. So Cal’s counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Riverside are in the top 15 most populous counties in the United States and all five are the top 5 most populous counties in California.
Schools and Institutions
There are a a large number of prestigious and world-renowned research universities and other public and private institutions in this southern part of the state. Just mentioning a few: 5 University of California campuses (Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and San Diego).
Then there are 12 California State University campuses (Fullerton, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Bernardino, San Diego, …); and private institutions such as Cal Tech, Chapman University, Claremont Colleges, Loma Linda University, Loyola Marymount University, Occidental College, Pepperdine University, and University of Redlands.
Entertainment: Movies, TV, and Music
Southern California is sometimes called the entertainment capital of the world. It is and is home to Hollywood, a district in Los Angeles, a name associated with the motion picture industry. Headquartered in southern California are The Walt Disney Company (which also owns ABC), Sony Pictures, Universal, MGM, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Brothers.
Sports and Related
In addition to the entertainment industry, southern California is home to a large surf and skateboard culture. Some of the world’s legendary surf spots are in southern California, including Trestles, Rincon, The Wedge, Huntington Beach, and Malibu. It is second only to the island of Oahu in terms of famous surf breaks.
Some of the world’s biggest extreme sports events, including the X Games, Boost Mobile Pro, and the U.S. Open of Surfing are all in southern California. Southern California is also important to the world of yachting. The annual Transpacific Yacht Race, or “Transpac”, from Los Angeles to Hawaii, is one of yachting’s premier events.
Southern California is home to many sports franchises and sports networks such as Fox Sports Net. Professional teams in the area include the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Also the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Diego Chargers and others. Southern California also is also home to a few popular NCAA sports programs such as the UCLA Bruins, the USC Trojans, and the San Diego State Aztecs.
Amusement or Theme Parks
As with any large area, especially areas where the weather is warm much of the year there are lots of theme parks and other outdoor activities.
Here are a few such theme parks and where they’re located:
Los Angeles: Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
Orange County: Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm
Riverside & San Bernardino: Castle Park, Wet’n’Wild Palm Springs, Scandia
San Diego: Legoland California, SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo
Wineries, Parks and Recreation Areas
There are also a lot of winery districts in the area. Since the area covers a lot of territory there are numerous parks and recreation areas. There are too many to name here. But here are some of the categories the parks and areas are associated with: National Park Service, Major State Parks, Major State Parks. There are at least 24 such parks, reserves and areas included in these three categories.
Some Unpopular Factors
You won’t find this written about much since Southern California is widely regarded as a great place to visit and/or to live. But it too, like other places has its down side. The population is so great it can be a nightmare getting from one place to another.
Yes we do have Freeways and they help tremendously, but they just weren’t meant to handle the huge volume of traffic they do each day. During rush hour it can easily take an hour or longer to go a few miles or less. This has now extended to Saturdays and Sundays in many places. Maybe it’s not quite as bad as rush hour, but very bad traffic nonetheless.
As an example, although an old one, I used to commute from my Lake Elsinore location to Irvine, in Orange County, some 55 miles away. In the morning I had to leave home by 4:20 am in order to avoid getting stuck for at least an hour on the 91 Freeway.
It was exactly an hour drive in the morning if I left then. Leave later it might take two and a half hours or longer. Many times I’d leave work at 4:15 pm and not get home to about 8:00 pm due to the heavily congested 55 Fwy and 91 Fwy and part of the 15 Fwy.
It is somewhat lighter now due to a newer toll road, but the drive is still a nightmare. That terrible Freeway drive prompted me to quit driving the Freeway for over 10 years. I took about a 50% cut in salary and took a job in Hemet and didn’t need to take a freeway to work the 40 minute drive to work. I got part of my life back.
Population is another bad news factor. There are so many people you have to move way out; I mean way out in the suburbs to avoid a lot of the noise, crime, traffic and smog of Los Angeles. However due to a building boom in the 80s – 90s a lot of people moved to the suburbs.
Now it is similar to being close to or in Los Angeles as far as the traffic and smog is concerned. Well not quite because a lot of the smog from the LA area is not here in the Inland Empire. In fact now the smog goes across the mountains into the high desert and more than halfway to Las Vegas. It was never like that years ago.
The smog or air pollution in certain areas is much worse than long ago, although I’ve read that there is less smog now than in previous years, decades ago. Well I surely cannot vouch for that because where I live it is smoggy most of the time.
When I moved to the Lake Elsinore area a quarter of a century ago I estimate about 80 – 85% of the time it was clear and no noticeable smog or air pollution. But now it is the exact opposite, maybe about 80- 85% of the time it is smoggy and the remaining time the air appears clear and unpolluted.
This is just a small sample of what’s here in Southern California. There is much more. Click the link below for more articles about California.
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