19 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About California's Central Valley

19 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About California's Central Valley

July 17, 2020

Hello, foodies—welcome to the Central Valley, the Golden State’s agricultural center. This agricultural hub and rich reserve of natural resources occupy about 11 percent of the California landscape. Even though the majority of us correlate the Central Valley with farmland, it’s home to so much more than that. With numerous fun things to do in the Central Valley—including river rafting excursions, escaping to coveted campsites, or spending a weekend in Sacramento—what will you choose first? Before you explore the region, here are some little-known facts about the Central Valley.

Fun Facts about the Central Valley 

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1. Central Valley farmers grow around 250 different crops, making an estimated $17 billion of combined income per year.

2. In Madera County alone, which is roughly just 12 percent of the Central Valley area, there are currently over 1,500 farms and ranches.

3. The city of Manteca was meant to be named Monteca, but the Central Pacific Railroad accidentally misprinted the word as Manteca. Eventually, this misspelled version (which means “lard” in Spanish) became the official name.

4. Of the five best California olive oils, four are produced in the Central Valley.

5. While weird facts about California include lots of fun inventions, the Central Valley is more famous for agricultural inventions such as the Fresno Scraper, which is one of the prototypes for the modern bulldozers.

6. The Central Valley aquifers supply 20 percent of the nation’s groundwater.

The Central Valley is the unsung hero of the California wine industry, producing more than half of the State's grapes.

7. While Napa and Sonoma are renowned around the world for their wines, the Central Valley is actually the state’s largest wine region, producing approximately 75 percent of California wine grape varieties. 

8. Tulare County is both the statewide and nationwide leader in milk production.

9. Only 1 percent of the Central Valley’s original grasslands have remained intact since the Gold Rush, when explorers dug up the earth of California’s Gold Country in a vain attempt to become wealthy.

10. Sacramento is California’s sixth state capital. It’s preceded by Monterey, Vallejo, Benicia, San Jose, and  San Francisco. 

11. The first modern landfill built in the U.S.—the Fresno Municipal Sanitary—was constructed in the Central Valley. 

12. The continuous expansion of farmlands has endangered many species living in the Central Valley, including the San Joaquin kit fox and the blunt-nosed lizard.

13. The Sacramento Zoo was built in 1927 and is still a pretty popular choice for a family weekend outing. While it opened with 40 animals, it now houses more than 140 types of native, exotic, and endangered species.

Almonds are the second-largest crop in California, and the majority of them are grown in the Central Valley.

14. The Central Valley is heaven for almond lovers—almonds are the top crop in Fresno County and the second-largest in the state—and is proudly known as the world’s almond capital. Local farmers and corporations together produce millions of pounds of almonds each year. 

15. About 22 million Californians consume water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta every day. This freshwater tidal estuary also irrigates millions of acres of California farms. 

16. The famous “Tule Fog” that covers the Central Valley from late November to March is named after the tule grass wetlands (also known as tulares). 

17. Speaking of tule, tule elk are native to California, with the majority of the herds living in the Central Valley. As of 2016, an estimated 5,700 tule reside in the region, compared to the 19th-century population of roughly half a million. 

18. Madera is often referred to as the “Heart of California” because geographically it’s located in the center of the state.

19. The Central Valley stands out with its multinational and multicultural history.  During the 19th and 20th centuries, African Americans,  Assyrians, Armenians, Basques, Béarnais, Californios, Chinese, Croatians, Hmong, Italians, Japanese, Mexicans, Mien, Norwegians, Okies, Portuguese, Russian Molokans, Sikhs, Swedes, and Volga Germans came here to live a better life in these farmlands.

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  • Nelson | Nov, 8

    That was really cool. Our family learned something interesting facts about the Central Valley. Reply

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