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California Coast Ranges

The Coast Ranges of California span 400 miles (640 km) from Del Norte or Humboldt County, California, south to Santa Barbara County. The other three coastal California mountain ranges are the Transverse Ranges, Peninsular Ranges and the Klamath Mountains.
Physiographically, they are a section of the larger Pacific Border province, which in turn is part of the larger Pacific Mountain System physiographic division. UNESCO has included the "California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve" in its Man and the Biosphere Programme of World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 1983.
The California Ranges had a high production of mercury following the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada. In the Cache Creek Basin, Cenozoic cinnabar deposits near Clear Lake are the northernmost of a group of similar deposits associated with volcanism and migration of a transform fault system. During 1877, these deposits hit their peak production of mercury, producing approximately 2,776 metric tons. These abandoned mines are still a source of mine waste runoff in Cache Creek and other downstream bodies of water.
The Northern Coast Ranges run north-south parallel to the coast. Component ranges within the Northern Coast Ranges include the Mendocino Range of western Mendocino County and the Mayacamas, Sonoma, and Vaca Mountains and the Marin Hills of the North Bay.
The Northern Coast Ranges consist of two main parallel belts of mountains, the Outer Northern Coast Ranges lying along the coast, and the Inner Northern Coast Ranges running inland to the east. They are separated by a long system of valleys. The northern valley portion is drained by the Eel River and its tributaries, and the southern by the Russian River. A series of short rivers, including the Mattole, Gualala, and Navarro rivers, drain the western slopes of the ranges. The eastern slopes of the ranges drain into the Sacramento Valley. Clear Lake lies in the southeast portion of the range, and drains eastward via Cache Creek.
The inland and dryer Inner Northern Coast Ranges are part of the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion, home to a number of plant communities including: mixed evergreen forest; oak woodland; and Interior chaparral and woodland. A major specific plant community of the inner ranges is Mediterranean California Lower Montane Black Oak-Conifer Forest, which supports particularly high biodiversity within the California Coast Ranges, including the nominate California Black Oak.
The Southern Coast Ranges, of the California Coast Ranges in the Pacific Coast Ranges System, run north and south, parallel to the Pacific Coast in north-central through north-southern California. The Southern Coast Ranges begin on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the East San Francisco Bay Area, and run south into Santa Barbara County. The Transverse Ranges lie to the south. The San Joaquin Valley is on the east, and Pacific Ocean on the west.
The Southern Coast Ranges have a predominantly Mediterranean climate, and are primarily within the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion. However, the moister areas of the Santa Cruz Mountains lie within the Northern California coastal forests ecoregion, characterized by forests of Coast redwood. Isolated groves of Coast redwoods are also found in the Big Sur region of the Santa Lucia Range, making them the southernmost natural occurrences of the species.
The California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion has a great range of plant communities in the Southern Coast Ranges, including mixed evergreen forests, oak woodland and savannas, grasslands, northern coastal scrub, and the Monterey Pine woodlands of the Monterey Peninsula and two other coastal enclaves of the Santa Lucia Range. The name "chaparral" comes from the Spanish word chaparro, applied to California scrub oaks and Coastal scrub oaks.