Major Rivers in California

The Sacramento River near Redding, California.
The Sacramento River near Redding, California.

California is not only the third largest state by area and the most populous state in the US but also one of the most diverse. It has a desert, forest, mountains, and an impressive waterway. California has several lakes and rivers that do not only provide water to the millions of households in the state but are also a major tourist destination. Rivers in California played a major part in its Gold Rush history. Many rivers in California run for longer than 250 miles. Some of the rivers flow through the state and into other states while others flow entirely within the state. Here are some of the longest rivers in California.

Longest Rivers

Colorado River - 1,450 Miles

The Colorado River flows through seven states: California, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Overall it covers a distance of 1,450 miles of which 17 miles forms the US boundary with Mexico. The river originates from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and ends in the Gulf of California. In California, it crosses the southern end, making a perfect spot for rafting activities. The Colorado River is popular for its dramatic canyons and the whitewater rapids. There are also 11 US National Parks along its path. The river provides water to over 40 million people.

Sacramento River - 447 Miles

The Sacramento River is the longest river that entirely flows within California. It originates from Klamath Mountains in Northern California and flows for about 400 miles south to Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It drains about 26,000 square miles of 19 Californian counties. Several sites along the path of Sacramento River allows for recreational activities such as fishing, kayaking, hiking, and swimming. The river and its drainage basin was once home to diverse flora and fauna. However, land reclamation for agriculture and the seasonal flooding led to a decline in water-based habitat.

San Joaquin River

The San Joaquin is the third longest river that runs through the state of California. The 365-mile long river originates from the high Sierra Nevada and flows through central California along the rich agricultural region and into the Pacific Ocean. It is a major source of irrigation water and also provide passage for wildlife. The San Joaquin River is heavily dammed and one of the most diverted rivers in California. The river has been known by different names and some of its sections are sometimes referred to differently. The present name originated from the name given to one of its tributaries in 1805-1808 by Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga in honor of Saint Joachim.

River Significance

California’s rivers are thriving with fish and wildness. The rivers are major fishing spots in the state and country as a whole. The rivers are also major sources of water for the millions of residents in the state and other states through which the river passes. Rivers in California also provide perfect spots for most recreational activities such as kayaking, canoeing, hunting, swimming, and riverside trailing. The rivers also provide habitats for diverse flora and fauna species. Some of the rivers like the Colorado River have been designated national parks and are major tourist destinations in California.

The 10 Longest Rivers in California

RankRiverLength (miles)Length (km)
1Colorado River 1,4502,330
2Sacramento River 447719
3San Joaquin River 365587
4Klamath River263423
5Pit River207333
6Eel River 200320
7Amargosa River 185298
8Owens River 183295
9Salinas River170270
10Kern River 164264

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