The Sacramento Valley is the northern component of California
's Central Valley
(complimenting the San Joaquin Valley
). About 200 miles long, it extends from Shasta Dam
in the north to the Sacramento River Delta
in the south. On the west, the valley is bordered by the Coast Range, including tbe Mendoncino National Forest
. On the east, the valley is defined by the volcanic northern portion of the Sierra Nevada
Through the middle of the valley runs the Sacramento River, the largest river in California. The Feather River also runs along much of the length of the valley, and the American, Yuba, and Bear rivers enter it from the east. From the west, Stony Creek, Cache Creek, and Putah Creek enter the valley, rivers in their own right. Exactly in the center of the valley, the Sutter Buttes rise out of flat farmland. Touted as the 'world's smallest mountain range', they reach over 1000 feet in height but are only a few miles across and nearly perfectly round when viewed from above. The Sutter Buttes are a long dead volcano, the southernmost of the Cascade chain.
The main city in the Sacramento Valley is, not surprisingly, Sacramento, the state capital. Also found here are the cities of Redding, Red Bluff (the areas around the northern part of the valley have very red soil), Chico, and Davis. Once a vast series of wetlands, the Sacramento Valley is now mostly used for agriculture, as the soil is extremely fertile. Sadly, suburban sprawl is taking over much of this fertile land as the city of Sacramento expands.
By far, the most important industry here is agriculture. Hot summers, mild winters, fertile alluvial soil, and abundant water from the Sierras combine to make this one of the most productive areas in the world. Walnuts, corn, tomatos, onions, wheat, rice, and many other crops are grown here. The city of Sacramento is largely supported by industries associated with the Capitol. Tourism is minimal, although the area supports some excellent fishing and very productive waterfowl hunting.
If you are going to visit this valley, avoid the summer. Summer temperatures commonly reach above 100 degrees, and the valley is more humid than most other areas west of the Rockies. The summer is very dry; summer rain falls only every one or two years. Winters may be rainy, but often are dominated by the notoriously dense and resilient tule fog. Spring and fall can be very windy. Although winter freezes aren't uncommon, snow is almost unknown. A little known fact of the yalley, especially the southern parts, is that tornados sometimes occur here, usually in the spring. They are usually quite weak but damage has been recorded.