Satellite image of the Baja California Peninsula
|Adjacent bodies of water|
|Area||143,390 km2 (55,360 sq mi)|
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 (199 miles) at its widest point and has approximately 3,000 km (1,864 miles) of coastline and approximately 65 islands. The total area of the Baja California Peninsula is 143,390 km2 (55,360 sq mi), roughly the same area as the country of Nepal.
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.
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. In 1539, explorer Francisco de Ulloa proved that Baja California was a peninsula rather than an island. [ citation needed ]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 province of the Californias was united until 1804, in the Spanish colonial 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 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 northern part is the state of Baja California. It is sometimes informally referred to as Baja California Norte, to distinguish it from both the Baja California Peninsula and the adjacent state Baja California Sur. The citizens of Baja California are named bajacalifornianos ("Lower Californians" in English). Mexicali is the capital.
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.
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.
Along the coast north of Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur is a prominent volcanic activity area.
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 4 metres (13 ft) 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 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. Since 1967, the peninsula has hosted the Baja 1000, an off road race that begins in Ensenada and ends in La Paz.
The Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortés or less commonly as the Vermilion Sea, is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is bordered by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa with a coastline of approximately 4,000 km (2,500 mi). Rivers which flow into the Gulf of California include the Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Yaqui. The surface of the gulf is about 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi). Maximum depths exceed 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) because of the complex geology, linked to plate tectonics.
Baja California (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈbaxa kaliˈfoɾnja];, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Baja California, is a state in Mexico. It is the northernmost and westernmost of the 32 federal entities of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1952, the area was known as the North Territory of Baja California. It has an area of 70,113 km2 and comprises the northern half of the Baja California Peninsula, north of the 28th parallel, plus oceanic Guadalupe Island. The mainland portion of the state is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean; on the east by Sonora, the U.S. state of Arizona, and the Gulf of California ; and on the south by Baja California Sur. Its northern limit is the U.S. state of California.
Baja California Sur, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Baja California Sur, is the second-smallest Mexican state by population and the 31st admitted state of the 32 states which make up the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is also the ninth-largest Mexican state in terms of area.
Sierra de San Pedro Mártir is a mountain range located within southern Ensenada Municipality and southern Baja California state, of northwestern Mexico.
The Peninsular Ranges 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.
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. The climate is dry, but its 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.
The Madrean pine–oak woodlands are an ecoregion of the Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests biome, located in North America. They are subtropical woodlands found in the mountains of Mexico and the southwestern United States.
Federal Highway 1 is a free (libre) part of the federal highway corridors of Mexico, and the highway follows the length of the Baja California Peninsula from Tijuana, Baja California, in the north to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, in the south. The road connects with Via Rapida, which merges into the American Interstate 5 (I-5) at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, which crosses the international border south of San Ysidro, California.
The Sierra de Juárez, also known as the Sierra Juarez, is a mountain range located in Tecate Municipality and northern Ensenada Municipality, within northern Baja California state of northwestern Mexico.
The Sierra Juárez and San Pedro Mártir pine–oak forests is an ecoregion, in the Temperate coniferous forests biome, that covers the higher elevations of the Sierra Juárez and Sierra San Pedro Mártir ranges, of the Peninsular Ranges, in the northern Baja California Peninsula of Mexico, near the border with California.
The El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, created in 1988, is located in Mulegé Municipality in northern Baja California Sur, at the center of the Baja California Peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. With a landmass of over 9,625 square-miles, it is the largest wildlife refuge in Mexico and borders on the northern edge of the Valle de los Cirios Protected Area of Flora and Fauna.
The Sierra de la Giganta is a mountain range of eastern Baja California Sur state, located on the southern Baja California Peninsula in northwestern Mexico.
La Ventana is a small fishing village on the shore of La Ventana Bay south of La Paz on the eastern side of the Baja California peninsula in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The village was founded in the early 1940s by the La Paz pearl diver Salome Leon. When pearl diving became unprofitable, Salome brought his family over the mountains from La Paz to La Ventana Bay to found the village. Many of his descendants continue to live, fish, and work in the village.
The Californias, occasionally known as the Three Californias or Two Californias, are a region of North America spanning the United States and Mexico, consisting of the U.S. state of California and the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Historically, the term Californias was used to define the vast northwestern region of Spanish America, as the Province of the Californias, and later as a collective term for Alta California and the Baja California Peninsula.
The Gulf of California xeric scrub is a xeric shrubland ecoregion of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula.
The San Lucan xeric scrub is a xeric shrubland ecoregion of the southernmost Baja California Peninsula, in Los Cabos Municipality and eastern La Paz Municipality of southern Baja California Sur state, Mexico.
The volcanoes of east-central Baja California are located on the Baja California Peninsula near the Gulf of California, in the state of Baja California Sur, in Mexico.
The Sierra de San Francisco is a mountain range in Mulegé Municipality of the northern region of Baja California Sur state, in northwestern Mexico.
San Matias Pass, or Paseo San Matias, is a pass at the crest of the east west divide between the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California watersheds of the Baja California Peninsula located in Baja California. The pass lies between the Peninsular Ranges of Sierra de Juarez to the north and the Sierra San Pedro Martir to the south.
La Reforma is a Plio-Pleistocene caldera on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. It is part of eleven volcanoes in Baja California, which formed with the Gulf of California during the Miocene, about ten million years ago. Previously, a volcanic arc had existed on the peninsula. The caldera's basement consists of granites and monzonites, formed between the Cretaceous and the Middle Miocene.
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