TOPOGRAPHIC FEATURES – The State of California extends along the shore of the Pacific Ocean between latitudes 32.5° and 42° North. Its more than 1,340 miles of coastline constitutes nearly three-fourths of the Pacific coastline of the conterminous United States. Bounded on the north by Oregon, on the east by Nevada and Arizona, and on the south by Mexico, the total land area amounts to 158,693 square miles. With its major axis oriented in a northwest-southeast direction the State is 800 miles in length. Its greatest east-west dimension is about 360 miles thought its average width is only 250 miles. However, it spreads over more than 10° of longitude, a distance of 550 miles.
The Coast Range parallels the coastline from the Oregon border to just north of the Los Angeles Basin. It is generally no more than 50 miles from the coast to the crest of the range. The mountains rise abruptly from the ocean or from the narrow coastal plain to elevations of several thousand feet. Some peaks in the north are more than 8,000 feet above sea level.
The principal break in the Coast Range is at San Francisco Bay where an opening permits an abundant flow of marine air into the interior of the State under certain circulation patterns.
In the northern part of the State the Coast Range merges with the Cascade Range, farther inland, to create an extensive area of rugged terrain more than 200 miles in width. The streams in the area work their way westward through deep canyons to the Pacific Ocean.