## Encyclopedia > Sierra Nevada (USA)

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The Sierra Nevada, or "snowy range" in Spanish, is a mountain range in eastern California and western Nevada.

In April of 1776 Padre Pedro Font on the second de Anza expedition gave that name to the mountains that could be seen in the distance to the east. Its most common nickname comes from John Muir, who in 1894 wrote in The Mountains of California[?]:

Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass[?] one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.... Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.

This description is due to the unusually light colored granite exposed by glacial action.

A unique peculiarity of the Sierra Nevada is that, under certain wind conditions, a large circular tube of air begins to roll on the south east side. This "rotor" is so perfectly symmetrical that it drives a series of higher counter-rotating rotors. This effect proceeds higher than most aircraft are able to reach. All recent world altitude records set in unpowered aircraft were set in the Sierra Nevada Rotor, most flown from Mojave Airport.

North to south:

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