The Bioregions of California

Written and mapped by Obi Kaufmann @coyotethunder


California is a patchwork of dynamic ecostates and bio-republics whose seams are defined by large geomorphic expanses, water and soil courses. To understand the bioregions of California is to understand the story of how California works and how it is assembled.


  1. The conifer forest of the North Coast extend to Southeast Alaska, although the tallest tree in the world, the Coastal Redwood reaches its maximum height near the border of Oregon and then the species stops its northward push.
  2. The Cascade Mountains extend up into Canada and find their southern most progression in Northern California. Defined by lonely, steep volcanoes, the Cascades in California are best defined by Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, two volcanoes that are not part of the Sierra Nevada.
  3. The Columbia Plateau extends from Washington and Idaho down into Northern California in only a couple of isolated points in the desert. These Basin and Range ecosystems, as they are called are defined by no water course that leads to the sea, but rather, find terminus in the deserts of Nevada.
  4. The historically rich Diablo mountains, home to the missionary road of the Calle Real in the eighteenth century are historically perhaps the most fecund of all California. Home to more than ten thousand people at the time of conquest.
  5. The Santa Lucia Mountains are home to some of the rarest conifers in the world, including the Santa Lucia Fir and the Big Cone Douglas Fir.
  6. While the whole of the Sierra Nevada is approximately four hundred miles long and about sixty miles wide, the High Sierra, the roof of California, is about two hundred miles long and twenty miles wide. This high alpine ecotype is one all its own, subject to its own
    rules and systems: different than the montane envirotypes of the rest of the Sierra Nevada.
  7. The Grapevine. Mount Pinos, where the Transverse, The Coastal and the Sierra Nevada meets, at its terminus at Tehachapi, near the Tejon Pass.
  8. The Wall. Mount Whitney, highest point in the lower 48 states. The Sierra Nevada rises out of the high desert with a straight elevation increase of fourteen thousand feet in just a few miles.
  9. The highest peak in Southern California, Mount Gregornio lies just a few miles north of another 11 foot plus peak, San Jacinto. Together the two peaks represent a gate of sorts that defines the end of the the Transverse Ranges and where the Low Desert meets the High.


Categories: CALIFORNIA