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The Sacramento Valley is the portion of the California Central Valleymarker that lies to the north of the San Joaquin-Sacramento Deltamarker in the U.S. state of Californiamarker. 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 Mountainsmarker 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.

The 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 a lot more common from just south of Corningmarker to Shasta Lake Citymarker. These are known as the Valley Hills. The start of the valley hills is just south of Rolling Hills Casino at the Tehama-Glenn County line near Corning. There are also a few hills in Red Bluffmarker 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 Buttesmarker. Nicknamed the smallest mountain range in the world, it consists of the remnants of an extinct volcano and is located just outside of Yuba Citymarker.


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 Valleymarker to the south. Nuts (primarily almonds and walnuts) are of greater importance north of the Delta, and rice, which is unviable in the bone-dry deserts of the San Joaquin, is a major crop. The town of Corningmarker proclaims itself "Olive City", producing olives for oil extraction and for consumption as fruit. In the central Sacramento valley lies the Sunsweet Growers Incorporated headquarters in Yuba Citymarker where more than half the growers in California belong to Sunsweet. 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 San Joaquin Valleymarker to the south, although the humidity and precipitation tends to be a bit higher, especially in fall, winter and spring (October to May). Summers or the dry season which is from May to September are generally very warm and dry with average daytime temperatures usually around the upper 80s to mid 90s a but triple digits are a common occurrence, especially in the Reddingmarker and Red Bluffmarker area. Cool down does occur from heatwaves from a breeze known as the "delta breeze". This breeze occurs from the bay area which brings cooler temperatures and higher humidity. At times the delta breeze is gusty with wind speed to up to 30mph in valley and up to 45mph 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 leaves beautiful autumn foliage. Winters, also known 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. 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 relatively strong thunderstorms and, perhaps surprisingly, a fair number of tornados (albeit mostly of F0 or F1 intensity), especially in Colusa Countymarker and areas around Corning and Orland. It is also prone to flooding during wetter storms. Flooding does occur at times during wetter periods, usually November to March. Snow in the valley is rare, although Reddingmarker and Red Bluffmarker, being at the north end of the valley, often experience a light dusting or two per year. Chicomarker may get a rain-snow mix every few years, but it will not actually snow for about every 5 years. Farther south in Sacramento, snow falls about once every 10 years or so. During the autumn and winter months, (October to March), 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. Spring starts out very wet but then becomes dryer and warmer. Thunderstorm are the main type of weather which brings rain unlike winter storms earlier in the year but winter storms can occur at times. Autumn tends to warm early but gives away to a prolonged cooler, wetter, foggier, period. Mid September to early October is best weather for the autumn season. Highs are usually in the low to mid 70's to low 80's before the wet season returns which lasts all the way to mid April. Frost occurs at times during winter.


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 Sacramentomarker and Yolo Counties. 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 Bluffmarker; State Route 20, which traverses the valley from west to east on its route from State Route 1 in Mendocino Countymarker to the Donner Passmarker; 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 Oaklandmarker, California to Portland, Oregonmarker, via Sacramentomarker, Marysvillemarker, Chicomarker, 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 Passmarker (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, Oregonmarker, to a junction with the Union Pacific Feather River line at Keddiemarker. 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 Davismarker to Tehamamarker (near Red Bluff).

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