Coordinates : 28°00′N 113°30′W / 28.000°N 113.500°W
/ 28.000; -113.500
Satellite image of the
ADJACENT BODIES OF WATER
Gulf of California
143,390 km2 (55,360 sq mi)
The BAJA CALIFORNIA PENINSULA (English: Lower
Spanish : Península de Baja California) is a peninsula in
Mexico . It separates the
Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of
California . The peninsula extends 1,247 km (775 miles) from Mexicali
Baja California in the north to
Cabo San Lucas ,
Baja California Sur
in the south. It ranges from 40 km (25 miles) at its narrowest to 320
km (200 miles) at its widest point and has approximately 3,000 km
(1,900 miles) of coastline and approximately 65 islands. The total
area of the
Peninsula is 143,390 km2 (55,360 sq mi).
The peninsula is separated from mainland
Mexico by the Gulf of
California and the
Colorado River . 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.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Timeline
* 2 Political divisions
Baja California Sur
* 3 Geology
* 4 Geography
* 5 Ecoregions
* 6 Tourism
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 External links
Origin of the name California
The land of
California existed as a myth among European explorers
before it was discovered. The earliest known mention of the idea of
California was in the 1510 romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandián by
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
Hernán Cortés ' 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
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 Las Californias to the peninsula and
lands to the north, including both
Baja California and Alta California
, the region that became parts of the present-day U.S. states of
Arizona , and parts of
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
Fortún Ximénez leads a mutiny and founds a settlement
Bay of La Paz before being killed.
Francisco de Ulloa explores both coasts.
* 1690s–1800s: Spanish settlement and colonization in lower Las
Baja California peninsula), the first Spanish missions in
Baja California are established by
* 1701: The first report and a map showing
California as a peninsula
rather than an island is sent to Europe.
* 1767: Jesuits expelled ;
Franciscans take over the Baja missions.
Franciscans go with the
Portola expedition to establish new
missions in Alta California. Control of the existing Baja missions
passes to the
Dominican Order .
Francisco Palóu 's line demarcates Franciscan and Dominican
areas of mission control.
* 1804: Las Californias divided into Alta ("Upper") and Baja
("Lower") California, using Palóu's line.
Mexican War of Independence
First Mexican Empire ,
Baja California Territory
Baja California Peninsula.
* 1847: The
Battle of La Paz
Battle of La Paz and the
Siege of La Paz occurs, as well
as several other engagements .
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo cedes
Alta California to the
United States . As a U.S. territory it receives the
Rush , causing increased maritime traffic along the peninsula.
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
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
Mexico in 1854, with
Baja California Territory in
The province of the Californias was united until 1804, in the Spanish
Viceroyalty of New Spain , when it was divided into Alta
(upper) and Baja (lower) California.
The two Californias division was kept after Mexican independence in
1821. The Spanish
Baja California Province became Mexican Baja
California Territory , and remained a separate territory until 1836.
In 1836, the
Siete Leyes constitutional reforms reunited both
Californias in the Departamento de las Californias . After 1848, the
Peninsula again became a Mexican territory when Alta
California was ceded to the
United States (see 1854 map).
Baja California Territory was divided into northern and
southern territories. In 1952, the "North Territory of Baja
California" became the 29th State of
Baja California . In
1974, the "South Territory of Baja California" became the 31st state
Baja California Sur .
Isla Partida, which is part of the San Lorenzo Marine
Archipelago National Park
The northern part is the state of
Baja California . The citizens of
Baja California are named bajacalifornianos ("Lower Californians" in
Mexicali is the capital.
BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR
Cabo San Lucas
The southern part, below 28° north, is the state of Baja California
Sur . The citizens of
Baja California Sur are named sudcalifornianos
("South Californians" in English). La Paz is its capital.
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 , 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
Imperial Fault and the
San Andreas Fault . The Baja California
Peninsula is now part of the
Pacific Plate and is moving with it away
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:
* Volcanoes of east-central
San Quintín Volcanic Field
Isla San Luis
Jaraguay volcanic field
* San Borja Volcanic Field
* Comondú-La Purísima
Scripps Institution of Oceanography have found a
2,000-year-old layer of non-decomposed roots, or peat, up to four
meters (13 feet) under the desert mangroves. The peat layer acts like
a sponge for stored atmospheric carbon, a record of sea-level-rise is
also recorded in the peat layer.
The desert mangroves restricted to rocky inlets on the rugged coast
Baja California have been growing over their own root remains over
thousands of years to compensate for sea-level rise, accumulating a
thick layer of peat below their roots. However, mangroves in flat
coastal floodplains have accumulated a thinner peat layer.
See also: Category:Natural history of
Baja California Sur and
Category: Geography of
Baja California as seen
in April 1984, from the bay of a Space Shuttle (
STS 41 )
Peninsular Ranges form the backbone of the peninsula. They are an
uplifted and eroded
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 .
Sierra de Juárez is the northernmost range in Mexico.
Sierra San Pedro Mártir runs south of the Sierra Juarez and
includes the peninsula's highest peak, the
Picacho del Diablo .
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.
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
Punta Eugenia and Punta Abreojos.
The two most prominent capes along the Pacific coastline of the
Punta Eugenia , located about halfway up the coast, and
Cabo San Lazaro , located about a quarter of the way north from Cabo
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 California peninsula from the large
Angel de la Guarda in the Gulf of California.
See also: Category:Flora of
Baja California and Category:Flora of
Baja California Sur
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.
California chaparral and woodlands , which covers the
Mediterranean climate northwestern corner of the peninsula, as well as
Cedros and Guadalupe islands.
Sierra Juarez and San Pedro Martir pine-oak forests in the upper
reaches of the Sierra Juárez and
Sierra San Pedro Mártir ranges in
the northern peninsula.
Sonoran Desert extends into the northeastern portion of the
state, east of the Sierra Juárez and
Sierra San Pedro Mártir ranges.
Baja California Desert extends east of the Peninsular Ranges
along the Pacific side of the peninsula for most of its length, and
includes the El
Vizcaíno Desert and
El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve
El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve .
Gulf of California xeric scrub extends along the Gulf of