The Sacramento Valley is the portion of the California Central Valley that lies to the north of the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta in the U.S. state of California. It encompasses all or parts of ten counties.
The Sacramento River and its tributaries dominate the geography of the Sacramento Valley. Rising in the various mountain ranges (the various Northern Coast Ranges to the west, the southern Siskiyou Mountains to the north, and the northern Sierra Nevada to the east) that define the shape of the valley, they provide water for agricultural, industrial, residential, and recreation uses. Most of the rivers are heavily dammed and diverted.
19th century etching shows Lassens Butte in the Sacramento ValleyThe terrain of the Sacramento Valley is primarily flat grasslands that become lusher as one moves east from the rain shadow of the Coast Ranges toward the Sierras. Unlike the San Joaquin Valley, which in its pre-irrigation state was a vegetation-hostile desert, the somewhat less arid Sacramento Valley had significant tracts of forest prior to the arrival of settlers of European ancestry. Most of it was cut down during the California Gold Rush and the ensuing wave of white American settlement. Although there are still some heavily tree-populated areas such as the greater Sacramento area.
Foothills become more common from just south of Corning to Shasta Lake City. These are known as the Valley Hills and begin south of Rolling Hills Casino at the Tehama-Glenn County line near Corning. There are also a few hills in Red Bluff and Corning. There is one major range of foothills between Cottonwood and Red Bluff known as the Cottonwood Hills (a.k.a. 9-mile Hill), and there is the Cottonwood Ridge between Anderson and Cottonwood. There are some hills in Redding, a few more than Red Bluff, and after Redding it is mainly foothills.
One distinctive geographic feature of the Sacramento Valley is the Sutter Buttes. Nicknamed the smallest mountain range in the world, it consists of the remnants of an extinct volcano and is located just outside of Yuba City, 44 miles north of Sacramento.
Citrus and nut orchards and cattle ranches are common to both halves of the Central Valley. The Sacramento Valley's agricultural mix also resembles that of the San Joaquin Valley to the south. Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are of greater importance north of the Delta, and rice, nonviable in the drier San Joaquin valley, is a major crop. The town of Corning produces olives for oil extraction and for consumption as fruit. The Sunsweet Growers Incorporated headquarters are in Yuba City. The valley controls more than two-thirds of the worldwide prune market through the over 400 growers in California.
Weather patterns in the Sacramento Valley are very similar to those in the San Joaquin Valley to the south, although the humidity and precipitation tends to be a bit higher. Summers are the dry season, with average daytime temperatures in the upper 80s to mid 90s but triple digits are a common occurrence, especially in the Chico, Redding and Red Bluff area. The "delta breeze", which comes in from the Bay area, brings cooler temperatures and higher humidity. At times the delta breeze is gusty with wind speed to up to 30 mph in valley and up to 45 mph in the delta region which is always breezy. This breeze can also bring morning low clouds at times into the region but the clouds generally burn off quickly and temperatures stay cool. Summer-like conditions continue into early to mid September but weather starts to change to cooler, wetter, foggier weather during October which give trees beautiful autumn foliage. Winters, also known as the rainy season, are generally mild to cool, foggy and wet with highs averaging in the mid-40s F to low-50s F, colder in the northern part of the valley and colder still in the foothills and frost can occur almost anywhere. The rainy season runs from October to April but it not unusual for rain to occur in September or May. During the rainy season, the Sacramento Valley is prone to strong thunderstorms and tornados, mostly of F0 or F1 intensity, especially in Colusa County and areas around Corning and Orland. Flooding does occur at times during wetter periods, usually November to March. Snow in the valley is rare, although Redding and Red Bluff, being at the north end of the valley, often experience a light dusting or two per year. Chico may get a rain-snow mix every few years, but, on the average, only snows about every 5 years. Farther south in Sacramento, snow falls about once every 10 years or so. During the autumn and winter months the entire Central Valley is susceptible to dense tule fog that makes driving hazardous, especially at night and especially south of Corning. The fog can last for weeks depending on how weak the wind is.
Interstate 5 is the primary route through the Sacramento Valley, traveling north-south roughly along the valley's western edge. Interstate 80 cuts a northeast-to-southwest swath through the southern end of the valley, mostly through Sacramento and Yolo Counties, and ends at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Several secondary routes connect the two roads, including Interstate 505 and State Route 113. The Sacramento area has a web of urban freeways.
Other principal routes in the region include State Route 99, which runs along the valley's eastern edge, roughly parallel to I-5, from Sacramento until its northern terminus in Red Bluff; State Route 20, which traverses the valley from west to east on its route from State Route 1 in Mendocino County to the Donner Pass; State Route 49, named in honor of the California Gold Rush and running through many old mining towns in the foothills of the valley; and State Route 45, which runs along the course of the Sacramento River roughly ten miles (20 km) east of I-5.
The Union Pacific Railroad serves the valley, with its principal north-south line from Oakland, California to Portland, Oregon, via Sacramento, Marysville, Chico, and Redding. This is also the route of Amtrak's Coast Starlight passenger train. The Union Pacific also has two east-west lines, through Donner Pass (the former Central Pacific Railroad), and through the Feather River gorge (the former Western Pacific Railroad). Amtrak's California Zephyr uses the Donner Pass route. The BNSF Railway has a line from Klamath Falls, Oregon, to a junction with the Union Pacific Feather River line at Keddie. The BNSF has trackage rights on both the UP east-west routes. In addition, the California Northern Railroad operates the former Southern Pacific Railroad line on the west side of the valley from Davis to Tehama (near Red Bluff).
- University of California, Davis
- California State University, Chico
- California State University, Sacramento
Capital Bible College, in Sacramento
Simpson University, in Redding
William Jessup University, in Rocklin
American River College, in Sacramento
Butte College, in Oroville
Cosumnes River College, in Sacramento
Folsom Lake College, in Folsom
Sacramento City College, in Sacramento
Shasta College, in Redding
Sierra College, in Rocklin
Woodland Community College, in Woodland
Yuba Community College, in Marysville
University of the Pacific, in Stockton, CA
Professional sports teams
National Basketball Association (NBA)
Pacific Coast League (minor league baseball)
Golden Baseball League
Independent Women's Football League
Women's Premier Soccer League
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