Sierra Nevada, major mountain range of western North America, running along the eastern edge of the U.S. state of California. Its great mass lies between the large Central Valley depression to the west and the Basin and Range Province to the east. Extending more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) northward from the Mojave Desert to the Cascade Range of northern California and Oregon, the Sierra Nevada varies from about 80 miles wide at Lake Tahoe to about 50 miles wide in the south. Its magnificent skyline and spectacular landscapes make it one of the most beautiful physical features of the United States. Biologically, it is home to the largest trees in the world—the giant sequoias. As a recreation centre, its year-round facilities prove a magnet to the inhabitants of the huge urban areas of California, and it has considerable importance as a source of power and water. It was the focus of the celebrated California gold rush.
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