California's diverse geography ranges from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the east; and from the redwood–Douglas fir forests in the northwest to the Mojave Desert in the southeast. The Central Valley, a major agricultural area, dominates the state's center. Though California is well-known for its warm Mediterranean climate, the large size of the state results in climates that vary from moist temperate rainforest in the north, to arid desert in the interior, as well as snowy alpine in the mountains.
Although today the state's largest population center is around Chicago in the northeastern part of the state, the state's European population grew first in the west, with French Canadians who settled along the Mississippi River, and gave the area the name Illinois. After the American Revolutionary War established the United States, American settlers began arriving from Kentucky in the 1780s via the Ohio River, and the population grew from south to north. In 1818, Illinois achieved statehood. After construction of the Erie Canal increased traffic and trade through the Great Lakes, Chicago was founded in the 1830s on the banks of the Chicago River, at one of the few natural harbors on southern Lake Michigan.John Deere's invention of the self-scouring steel plow turned Illinois's rich prairie into some of the world's most productive and valuable farmland, attracting immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden. The Illinois and Michigan Canal (1848) made transportation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley faster and cheaper. New railroads carried immigrants to new homes, as well as being used to ship commodity crops to Eastern markets. The state became a transportation hub for the nation.