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The Far West

The three far western states of California, Oregon and Washington form the Pacific coastline of the United States. America’s most populous state and its third largest in area, California exists almost as a nation apart, while Washington and Oregon form the bulk of the region called the Pacific Northwest.

Most of the country’s Pacific coast is rocky, often with breathtaking scenery. Each of the three Pacific coast states has a series of north-south running mountain ranges that parallel the coast. These mountains are separate from the Rocky Mountain chain further to the east. California has the large and industrialized urban areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose, but it also has many areas of great natural beauty. Much of California’s extensive interior areas are arid desert. In California’s center, the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys form the 600-mile-long Central Valley, the most productive farmland in the United States (if not the world). California produces more than 90% of the nation’s wine.

In popular imagination and popular culture, the two northwestern states of Washington and Oregon are associated with lush greenery and wet climates, but each has arid areas with desert-like conditions in their interiors, to the east of the coastal mountains. While hardly approaching the powerhouse that is California, both Washington and Oregon are large producers of agricultural products (and the second and third largest producers of quality wine in the United States). The cities of Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington both have reputations for quality of life, ecological awareness, and economic and social diversity.

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