Great Central Valley
California's Great Central Valley is a large, flat valley dominating the central portion of California, nestled between the coastal mountains and the Sierra Nevada. This incredibly fertile valley encompasses about 13% of California's total land area, is over 400-miles-long and about 50 miles wide. The Central Valley is home to some of the most productive agricultural land in the world fully supplying one-quarter of the food America eats.
It is composed of three major watersheds: the Sacramento Valley, the San Joaquin Valley in the south, and the semi-arid Tulare Basin at the southernmost end. It is home to California’s largest river systems: the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers that drain their respective valleys and meet to form the delta, a large expanse of interconnected canals, stream beds, sloughs, and marshes, ultimately flowing to the Pacific Ocean by way of San Francisco Bay. The Valley contains one of the world’s most elaborate hydrologic systems, including 1,200 dams and 1,800 miles of levees.
Unlike most of California, the majority of the land is in private ownership – about 70%.
Development, agriculture, and the draining and diversion of wetlands, lakes and rivers have radically altered the habitats of the Central Valley reducing them to tiny fractions of their historic extent. Scarce and highly managed water and habitat loss are key conservation concerns in the Valley. Despite the massive environmental changes that have occurred, the valley remains a key geography for birds and other wildlife, whose future is far from secured there.
Point Blue studies birds and their habitats throughout the Valley to find multi-benefit approaches to habitat restoration and conservation in conjunction with development, agriculture, flood control, and recreation.
Visit the links at right to learn more about our programs in the Central Valley.