Baja California peninsula

Baja California peninsula

Coordinates: 28°00′N 113°30′W / 28°N 113.5°W / 28; -113.5

Satellite view of Baja California peninsula

The Baja California peninsula (English: Lower California), is a peninsula in northwestern Mexico. Its land mass separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. The Peninsula extends 1,247 kilometres (775 mi) from Mexicali, Baja California in the north to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur in the south.

The total area of the Baja California Peninsula is 143,390 square kilometres (55,360 sq mi). The Peninsula is separated from mainland Mexico by the Gulf of California and the Colorado River, though on the Colorado there are bridges to the state of Sonora. There are four main desert areas on the peninsula: the San Felipe Desert, the Central Coast Desert, the Vizcaíno Desert and the Magdalena Plain Desert.



In the minds of European explorers California existed as an idea before it was discovered. The earliest known mention of the idea of California was in the 1510 romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandián by Spanish author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. The book described the Island of California as being west of the Indies, "very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons."

Following Hernán Cortés's conquest of Mexico, the lure of an earthly paradise as well as the search for the fabled Strait of Anián, helped motivate him to send several expeditions to the west coast of New Spain in the 1530s and early 1540s. Its first expedition reached the Gulf of California and California, and proved the Island of California was in fact a peninsula. Nevertheless, the idea of the island persisted for well over a century and was included in many maps. The Spaniards gave the name "California" to the peninsula and to the lands north, including both Baja California and Alta California, the region that became parts of the present-day U.S. states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.


Marker of the Upper-Lower California partition

New Spain's Province of Las Californias was divided into Alta California and Baja California on May 19, 1773 near San Juan Bautista Creek by Fray Francisco Palóu. A marker is erected in the place where the dividing committee began the measurements for the province's partition. The marker is behind the Misión San Miguel Arcángel de la Frontera, near Ensenada, Baja California.

Translated into English, the inscription on the marker reads:

San Juan Bautista Creek: Juan Crespí, May 1 for the setting of the first international division line between Old or Lower California (Dominicans) and New or Upper California (Franciscans) five leagues to the north (Valley of the Médanos) being established by: Priest Francisco Palóu on 19 August 1773 (Mojonera of Palou) in compliance with the instructions put forth on the April 7, 1772 Concordato.
Rosarito Historical Society, Baja California A.C. at The Mission, Baja California, on 20 May 1990. Fieldwork and research: . Monument donation: Mario Reyes Coronado De Villasari & family . Construction: Students of the School of Tourism at U.A.B.C.(Autonomous University of Baja California).


The whole peninsula of Baja California was: the lower part of the Las Californias Province of the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain; and then a single territory of Mexico from 1773 until 1931, when it was divided into Northern and Southern territories. In 1952, the "North Territory of Baja California" became the 29th State of Mexico as Baja California, and in 1974, the "South Territory of Baja California" became the 31st state as Baja California Sur.


  • 1532: Hernán Cortés sends three ships north along the coast of Mexico in search of the Island of California. The three ships disappear without a trace.
  • 1533: Cortés sends a follow-up mission to search for the lost ships. Pilot Fortún Ximénez leads a mutiny and founds a settlement in the Bay of La Paz before being killed.
  • 1539: Francisco de Ulloa explores both coasts.
  • 1690s– first decade of the 18th century: Spanish settlement and colonization in lower Las Californias (Baja peninsula), the Spanish missions in Baja California established.
  • 1773: The Spanish province of Las Californias is divided into Alta ("Upper") and Baja ("Lower") California.
  • 1810-1821: Mexican War of Independence
  • 1821: First Mexican Empire, Baja California peninsula becomes a Mexican territory.
  • 1847: The Battle of La Paz and the Siege of La Paz occurs, as well as several other engagements.
  • 1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo cedes Alta California to the United States. As a U.S. territory it receives the California Gold Rush, causing increased maritime traffic along the peninsula.
  • 1850: California admitted to U.S. statehood.
  • 1853: William Walker, with 45 men, captures the capital city of La Paz and declares himself President of the Republic of Lower California. Mexico forces him to retreat a few months later.
  • 1930-31: The Territory of Baja California is further divided into Northern and Southern territories (North Territory of Baja California & South Territory of Baja California).
  • 1952: The North Territory of Baja California becomes the 29th State of Mexico, Baja California. The southern portion, below 28°N, remains a federally administered territory.
  • 1973: The 1,700 km (1,100 mi) long Trans-Peninsular Highway (Mexican Federal Highway 1), is finished. It is the first paved road that spans the entire peninsula.[1] The highway was built by the Mexican government to improve Baja's economy and increase tourism.[2]
  • 1974: The South Territory of Baja California becomes the 31st state, Baja California Sur.
  • 1989: Baja California elects Ernesto Ruffo Appel the first non PRI governor since 1929.

Political state divisions

The peninsula is divided into two States (Estados):

Baja California

The northern part is the State of Baja California.[3] The citizens of Baja California are named Baja-Californiano (Lower-Californian in English).

Baja California Sur

The southern part, below 28° north, is the State of Baja California Sur. The citizens of Baja California Sur are named Sud-Californianos ( "South-Californian" in English ).


The Baja California peninsula was once a part of the North American Plate, the tectonic plate of which mainland Mexico remains a part. About 12 to 15 million years ago the East Pacific Rise began cutting into the margin of the North American Plate, initiating the separation of the peninsula from it. Spreading within the Gulf of California consists of short oblique rifts or ridge segments connected by long northwest trending transform faults,[4] which together comprise the Gulf of California Rift Zone. The north end of the rift zone is located in the Brawley seismic zone in the Salton Sea basin between the Cerro Prieto Fault and the San Andreas Fault.[4] The Baja California peninsula is now part of the Pacific Plate and is moving with it away from the East Pacific Rise in a north northwestward direction.

Along the coast north of Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur is a prominent volcanic activity area.

Volcanoes of the peninsula and adjacent islands include:[5]

  • Volcanoes of east-central Baja California

Geographic features

See also: Natural history of Baja California Sur and Category: Geography of Baja California

The Peninsular Ranges form the backbone of the peninsula. They are an uplifted and eroded Jurassic to Cretaceous batholith, part of the same original batholith chain which formed much of the Sierra Nevada mountains in U.S. California. This chain was formed primarily as a result of the subduction of the Farallon Plate millions of years ago all along the margin of North America.

  • The Sierra Juárez is the northernmost range in Mexico.
  • The Sierra San Pedro Mártir runs south of the Sierra Juarez and includes the peninsula's highest peak, the Picacho del Diablo.
  • The Sierra de San Borja runs south of the Sierra San Pedro Martir.
  • The volcanic complex of Tres Virgenes lies in Baja California Sur, near the border with the state of Baja California, forming the ranges south of the Sierra de San Borja.
  • The Sierra de la Giganta runs along the shore of the Gulf of California south of the Tres Virgenes complex.
  • At the south end of Baja California Sur, the Sierra de la Laguna forms an isolated mountain range rising to 2406 m.
  • Another isolated range, the Sierra Vizcaino, juts out into the Pacific between Punta Eugenia and Punta Abreojos.

The two most prominent capes along the Pacific coastline of the peninsula are Punta Eugenia, located about halfway up the coast, and Cabo San Lazaro, located about a quarter of the way north from Cabo San Lucas.

The Bahia Sebastian Vizcaino, the largest bay in Baja, lies along the Pacific coast halfway up the peninsula. The large island of Isla Cedros is situated between the bay and the Pacific, just north of Punta Eugenia. Onshore southeast of the bay is the Desierto de Vizcaino, an extensive desert lying between the Sierra Vizcaino to the west, and the Tres Virgenes range which runs along the Gulf of California to the east.

The largest bays along the coastline of the Gulf are Bahia de La Paz where the city of La Paz is located, and Bahia Concepcion. The Bahía de los Ángeles is a small bay located west of the Canal de las Ballenas which separates the Baja peninsula from the large island of Angel de la Guarda in the Gulf of California.


  • See also: Category: Flora of Baja California; Category: Flora of Baja California Sur; and Category: Flora of Gulf of California islands

The peninsula is home to several distinct ecoregions. Most of the peninsula is deserts and xeric shrublands, although pine-oak forests are found in the mountains at the northern and southern ends of the peninsula. The southern tip of the peninsula, which was formerly an island, has many species with affinities to tropical Mexico.


The Peninsula is known colloquially as Baja by American and Canadian tourists, and is renowned for its natural beauty and pristine environment. It draws ecotourists who go whale watching for migrating California Gray Whales as well as tourists that arrive to the Baja California Gold Coast and resorts on the southern tip of the Peninsula. Its location between the North Pacific and Gulf of California give it a reputation for good sports fishing.

See also


  1. ^ Baja Highway: Drive the Baja California Peninsula
  2. ^ Barkenbus, Jack, The Trans-Peninsular Highway: A New Era for Baja California, Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 16, No. 3. (Aug., 1974), pp. 259-273.
  3. ^ Baja California, it is sometimes informally referred to as Baja California Norte, to distinguish it from both the Baja California peninsula, of which it covers the northern half, and the adjacent state Baja California Sur that covers the southern half of the peninsula. While it is a well-established term for the northern half of the Baja California peninsula, however, its usage would not be correct, because Baja California Norte has never existed as a political designation for a state, territory, district or region.
  4. ^ a b Alles, David L., Geology of the Salton Trough,
  5. ^ Volcanoes of México and Central America

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Baja California, península de — Península ubicada en el noroeste de México, limita con EE.UU. al norte, con el océano Pacífico al oeste y el golfo de California al este. Tiene 1.220 km (760 mi) de largo y cubre una superficie de 55.366 mi2 (143.396 km2). Se divide políticamente …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • List of Baja California Peninsula hurricanes — The list of Baja California hurricanes includes all of the tropical cyclones that impacted the Baja California Peninsula, which includes the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Due to the location and geography of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Baja California Sur — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Para otros usos de este término, véase Baja California (desambiguación). Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California Sur Estado de  México …   Wikipedia Español

  • Baja California (disambiguation) — Baja California may refer to: *Baja California, a former Mexican territory from 1804 to 1931, which comprised the whole Baja California peninsula . *Baja California peninsula, a peninsula of North America, in northwestern Mexico. *Baja California …   Wikipedia

  • Baja California rock squirrel — Conservation status Endangered …   Wikipedia

  • Baja California — Infobox Settlement name = Baja California other name = native name = Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California nickname = settlement type = State motto = imagesize = image caption = flag size = 140px image seal size = image shield = Escudo Baja… …   Wikipedia

  • Baja California — /bah hah kal euh fawr nyeuh, fawr nee euh/; Sp. /bah hah kah lee fawrdd nyah/ a narrow peninsula in NW Mexico between the Gulf of California and the Pacific, forming two territories of Mexico. 1,434,000; 55,634 sq. mi. (144,090 sq. km). Caps:… …   Universalium

  • Baja California Sur — Infobox Settlement name = Baja California Sur other name = native name = Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California Sur nickname = settlement type = motto = imagesize = image caption = flag size = 140px image seal size = image shield = Escudo de… …   Wikipedia

  • Baja California Sur — State (pop., 2000: 423,516), southern Baja California peninsula, northwestern Mexico. It occupies an area of 28,369 sq mi (73, 475 sq km), and its capital is La Paz. It became a state in 1974. It is sparsely populated and remains relatively… …   Universalium

  • Baja California Desert — The Baja California desert is a Desert ecoregion of Mexico s Baja California Peninsula.ettingThe ecoregion covers 77,700 square kilometers (30,000 square miles), and includes most of the Peninsula s western slope. It is bounded on the west by the …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.