The Baja California Peninsula (English: Lower California Peninsula, Spanish: Península de Baja California) is a peninsula in Northwestern 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 Baja California 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.
|Baja California Peninsula|
Satellite image of the Baja California Peninsula
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|Area||143,390 km2 (55,360 sq mi)|
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 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' 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 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 California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
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 Baja California Peninsula again became a Mexican territory when Alta California was ceded to the United States (see 1854 map).
In 1931 Baja California Territory was divided into northern and southern territories. In 1952, the "North Territory of Baja California" became the 29th State of Mexico as Baja California. In 1974, the "South Territory of Baja California" became the 31st state as Baja California Sur.
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, 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 Imperial Fault and the San Andreas Fault. 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.
Volcanoes of the peninsula and adjacent islands include:
Researchers from 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 of 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.
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 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 California peninsula from the large island of Angel de la Guarda in the Gulf of California.
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 known for its natural 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 sports fishing.
The Baja California Desert is a desert ecoregion of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula. This ecoregion occupies the western portion of the Baja California peninsula, and occupies most of the Mexican states of Baja California Sur and Baja California. It covers 77,700 square kilometers (30,000 square miles). The climate is dry, but the close proximity of the Pacific Ocean provides humidity and moderates the temperature. The flora mostly consists of xeric shrubs and over 500 species of recorded vascular plants.Baja California rock squirrel
The Baja California rock squirrel (Otospermophilus atricapillus) is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to Mexico.Cactus mouse
The cactus mouse (Peromyscus eremicus) is a species of rodent in the family Cricetidae. It is one species of a closely related group of common mice often called deer mice. Cactus mice are small, between 18 and 40 g in weight. Females weigh slightly more than males and are significantly larger in body length, ear length, length of mandible, and bullar width of skull. Cactus mice can be identified by having naked soles on their hind feet and almost naked tails, which are usually the same length or longer than the animals' body length. Their ears are nearly hairless, large, and membranous. Their fur is long and soft; coloration varies between subspecies and between different populations. Color of fur varies from ochre to cinnamon, with white ventral areas, and the sides and top of head slightly grayish. Females tend to be slightly paler in color than males, while juveniles appear more gray than their parents.California ground squirrel
The California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi), also known as the Beechey ground squirrel, is a common and easily observed ground squirrel of the western United States and the Baja California Peninsula; it is common in Oregon and California and its range has relatively recently extended into Washington and northwestern Nevada. Formerly placed in Spermophilus, as Spermophilus beecheyi, it was reclassified in Otospermophilus in 2009 as it became clear that Spermophilus as previously defined was not a natural (monophyletic) group. A full species account was published for this species in 2016.Etymology of California
California is a North American place name used by the U.S. state of California and the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Collectively, these three areas constitute the region formerly referred to as The Californias. The name California is shared by many other places in other parts of the world, whose names derive from the same original.
When Spanish explorers in the 16th century first discovered the Baja California peninsula west of the Sea of Cortez, they believed the peninsula to be a large island. The name "California" was applied to the supposed island, and was probably a reference to a mythical island described in a popular novel of the time: Las Sergas de Esplandián. Several other origins have been suggested for the word "California", including Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, South Asian, and American Indian origins. All of these are disputed.California originally referred to the entire region composed of the Baja California peninsula now known as Mexican Baja California and Baja California Sur, and the upper mainland now known as the U.S. states of California and parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming. After Mexico's independence from Spain, the upper territory became the Alta California province. In even earlier times, the boundaries of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean coastlines were only partially explored and California was shown on early maps as an island. The Sea of Cortez is also known as the Gulf of California.Eva's desert mouse
Eva's desert mouse (Peromyscus eva) is a species of rodent in the genus Peromyscus of the family Cricetidae found only in the Baja California peninsula of Mexico.Garibaldi (fish)
The Garibaldi or Garibaldi damselfish (Hypsypops rubicundus) is a species of bright orange fish in the damselfish family. Garibaldis occur in the subtropical northeastern part of the Pacific Ocean. The common name is a reference to the Italian military and political figure Giuseppe Garibaldi, whose followers often wore a characteristic scarlet or red shirt. As is the case in all damselfish, male Garibaldis aggressively defend the nest site after the female lays eggs.Hurricane Marty (2003)
Hurricane Marty was the deadliest tropical cyclone of the 2003 Pacific hurricane season. Forming on September 18, it became the 13th tropical storm and fourth hurricane of the year. The storm moved generally northwestward and steadily intensified despite only a marginally favorable environment for development, and became a Category 2 hurricane before making two landfalls on the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico.
The hurricane was responsible for significant flooding and storm surges that caused $100 million (2003 USD) in damage mostly on the peninsula of Baja California, and resulted in the deaths of 12 people. Marty affected many of the same areas that had been affected by Hurricane Ignacio a month earlier.Hurricane Odile
Hurricane Odile is tied for the most intense landfalling tropical cyclone in the Baja California Peninsula during the satellite era. Sweeping across the peninsula in September 2014, Odile inflicted widespread damage, particularly in the state of Baja California Sur, in addition to causing lesser impacts on the Mexican mainland and Southwestern United States. The precursor to Odile developed into a tropical depression south of Mexico on September 10 and quickly reached tropical storm strength. After meandering for several days, Odile began to track northwestward, intensifying to hurricane status before rapidly reaching its Category 4 hurricane peak intensity on September 14. The cyclone slightly weakened before making landfall near Cabo San Lucas with winds of 125 mph (205 km/h). Odile gradually weakened as it tracked across the length of the Baja California Peninsula, briefly crossing into the Gulf of California before degenerating into a remnant system on September 17. These remnants tracked northeastward across the Southwestern United States before they were no longer identifiable on September 19.
Initially, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast that Odile would track westward and avoid land as it would curve out to sea. Accordingly, the local governments of southwestern Mexico initially posted minor weather alerts. Precautionary measures on the Baja California Peninsula began in earnest after Odile unexpectedly took a direct course towards the peninsula. Several municipalities declared a state of emergency, opening 164 shelters with a total capacity of 30,000 people. Due to the unanticipated threat of Odile, approximately 26,000 foreign tourists were stranded on the peninsula at the time of landfall.
In Odile's developmental stage, its heavy rainfall and storm surge inflicted minor coastal damage across southwestern Mexico and three deaths in Oaxaca and Jalisco. The most significant storm impacts occurred on the Baja California Peninsula, where damages amounted to MXN$16.6 billion (US$1.25 billion). Power outages spurred by Odile's intense winds and rain cut electricity to 92% of the population of Baja California Sur. Severe flooding also occurred, causing rivers to swell and the mass evacuation of people out of hazardous low-lying areas. The remnants of Odile brought rains and unseasonably powerful thunderstorms to the southwestern United States. In total, Odile led to the deaths of 18 people throughout its nine-day existence.List of Baja California Peninsula hurricanes
The list of Baja California Peninsula 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. In the period 1951 to 2000, Baja California had one hurricane and three tropical storms make landfall. During the same period, Baja California Sur witnessed nineteen hurricanes and thirty tropical storms. During the same time period, the region got hit by two major hurricanes (Hurricane Oliva in 1967 and Hurricane Kiko in 1989). The most expensive storm in the area is Hurricane Odile in 2014 and the deadliest is Hurricane Liza in 1976.Mexican Federal Highway 3
Federal Highway 3 (Spanish: Carretera Federal 3, Fed. 3 ) is a free part of the federal highways corridors (Spanish: los corredores carreteros federales). One segment connects Tecate (and California State Route 188 on the US-Mexico border) to Ensenada in Baja California. This segment ends at its junction with Fed. 1 at El Sauzal Rodriguez, just a little north of Ensenada. This segment of the highway is 112 kilometers (70 mi) long.
This segment of the highway is important because it shortens the distance between the Baja California peninsula and the interior of the country by providing a link with Fed. 2 bypassing Tijuana. It also connects Valle de Guadalupe, San Antonio de las Minas and Valle de Las Palmas.
A second segment of the highway, 196 kilometres (122 mi), begins at Fed. 1 in Ensenada and links Ensenada with Fed. 5 near the east coast of the Baja California peninsula. Their junction in the town of El Chinero is 55 kilometres (34 mi) north of San Felipe, Baja California. There is a military inspection station just south of the junction, where all passing vehicles in both directions are subject to search.Mexican mole lizard
The Mexican mole lizard (Bipes biporus), commonly known as the five-toed worm lizard, or simply as Bipes, is a species of amphisbaenian, which is endemic to the Baja California Peninsula. It is one of four species of amphisbaenians that have legs. It should not be confused with the axolotl, a salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum), which is usually called ajolote in Spanish. It is commonly found in Baja California.Northern Baja deer mouse
The Northern Baja deermouse (Peromyscus fraterculus) is a species of deer mouse native to Southern California and the Baja California peninsula as well as several islands in the Gulf of California. P. fraterculus was previously considered a subspecies of the cactus mouse (Peromyscus eremicus) prior to a 2000 study which identified genetic differences and suggested P. fraterculus is more closely related to Eva's desert mouse (P. eva) than to P. eremicus.Oryzomys peninsulae
Oryzomys peninsulae, also known as the Lower California rice rat, is a species of rodent from western Mexico. Restricted to the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, it is a member of the genus Oryzomys of family Cricetidae. Only about twenty individuals, collected around 1900, are known, and subsequent destruction of its riverine habitat may have driven the species to extinction.
Medium in size for its genus, it was first described as a separate species, but later lumped into other, widespread species until it was reinstated as separate in 2009. It is distinctive in fur color—grayish brown on the forequarters and reddish brown on the hindquarters—and in some dimensions of its skull, with a high braincase, robust zygomatic arches (cheekbones), and long incisive foramina (perforations of the palate between the incisors and the molars).Peninsular Ranges
The Peninsular Ranges (also called the Lower California province) are a group of mountain ranges that stretch 1,500 km (930 mi) from Southern California to the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula; they are part of the North American Coast Ranges, which run along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico. Elevations range from 500 to 10,834 feet (152 to 3,302 m).Peninsular myotis
The peninsular myotis (Myotis peninsularis) is a species of vesper bat. It is endemic to northwestern Mexico, found only within Baja California Sur state on the southern Baja California Peninsula. Its habitats include the southern Peninsular Ranges and deserts.Saxidomus nuttalli
Saxidomus nuttalli is a species of large edible saltwater clam, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Veneridae, the venus clams. Common names include California butterclam and Washington clam.This clam is native to the west coast of North America, its distribution extending from northern California to Baja California.This is a commercially exploited species that attains a length of approximately 15 cm.Sebastes atrovirens
Sebastes atrovirens is a species of fish in the rockfish family known by the common name kelp rockfish. It is native to the Pacific Ocean along the coast of California in the United States and Baja California in Mexico.White-tailed antelope squirrel
The white-tailed antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus) is a diurnal species of ground squirrel, scientifically classified in the order Rodentia and family Sciuridae, found in arid regions of the southwestern United States and the Baja California Peninsula of northwestern Mexico.