San Joaquin Valley

From Academic Kids

The eight-county San Joaquin Valley is the part of the Central Valley of California that lies south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in Stockton. Much of it is rural, but it does contain the cities of Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Modesto, and Visalia.

Agriculture is a major component of the Valley's economy. There are also oil and natural gas wells around Bakersfield.



Culturally, the San Joaquin Valley is quite different from much of the rest of California. This is in part due to the influx of people with Southern descent due to the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. People in the San Joaquin Valley are more conservative than most other parts of the state. For example, signs can be seen around Pixley supporting leaving the United Nations and opposing abortion. While the importance of agriculture in the area can curb environmentalism, air pollution is a very serious and quite acknowledged problem in the area. The Central Valley air basin is among the worst in the nation, ranking with the likes of Los Angeles and Houston in pollution.


The San Joaquin Valley is home to some institutes of higher education, the most well-known probably being Fresno State and University of the Pacific. The University of California, Merced campus is currently under construction and set to open in 2005. Community colleges are also present in many areas.

Ethnic Background

While the San Joaquin Valley does have a large number of ethnic groups, many of them are found in majorities in specific cities, and hardly anywhere else in the San Joaquin Valley. For example, the Dutch are focused in Ripon, the Sikhs in Stockton and Livingston, and the Yugoslavs in Delano. Additionally, Kingsburg is famous for the distinct Swedish influence on the town, having been founded by immigrants from that country. Ethnic groups found in a broader area are the Portuguese, Mexicans, Armenians, and dust bowl "Okies" who migrated to California from Texas and Oklahoma.

The cultures of the San Joaquin Valley are the result of established ethnic communities and groups of immigrants coming to the United States at once. This is in part due to the founding of religious groups in the San Joaquin Valley. For example, the first permanent Sikh Gurdwara was made in Stockton in 1915. These communities in the San Joaquin Valley are quite large. For example, there are more Azoreans in the San Joaquin Valley than there are in the Azores.

The dust bowl migrants to the San Joaquin Valley are one of the more well-known groups in the Central Valley, in part due to the novel The Grapes of Wrath, and the movie based on the book. These farmers left Oklahoma and Texas when farming became near impossible due to poor soil. They left en masse, taking Route 66 to the San Joaquin Valley. There, they continued the farming life they had lived in Oklahoma, and they contributed to the creation of the large agriculture industry in the San Joaquin Valley.


The San Joaquin Valley is transversed by Interstate 5 and state highway 99. Interstate 5 bypasses major population centers in the Valley (including Fresno, currently the largest U.S. city without an Interstate highway), while 99 runs through them. Local political leaders, including Congressional representatives of the Valley, are pushing to convert 99 to an Interstate highway.

Amtrak provides rail service through the Valley. There are also plans for high-speed rail lines that will link the Central Valley with places like San Francisco and Los Angeles.

A port for cargo ships is also present in Stockton.

Cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants

Cities with 20,000 to 100,000 inhabitants

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