Baja California Peninsula and Gulf of California (Central/North America)

Baja California Peninsula and Gulf of California (Central/North America)

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 21:11

The Baja California Peninsula is a peninsula in northwestern Mexico. It is bounded to the north by the United States, to the east by the Gulf of California, and to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. The peninsula is separated from mainland Mexico by the Gulf of California and the Colorado River.

The Baja California Peninsula is a peninsula in northwestern Mexico. It is bounded to the north by the United States, to the east by the Gulf of California, and to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. It separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. The peninsula is separated from mainland Mexico by the Gulf of California and the Colorado River.

The peninsula extends 1,247 km (775 mi) from Mexicali, Baja California in the north to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur in the south. It ranges from 40 km (25 mi) at its narrowest to 320 km (200 mi) at its widest point and has approximately 3,000 km (1,900 mi) of coastline and approximately 65 islands. The total area of the Baja California Peninsula is 143,390 sq km (55,360 sq mi).

Baja California has 2,038 mi (3,280 km) of coastline, with many islands on both sides. There are sheltered deepwater harbors on the western coast as well as on the gulf. 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 Baja California Peninsula was once a part of the North American Plate, the tectonic plate of which mainland Mexico remains a part. 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.

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 Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez (Mar de Cortés) — named for Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés — or Vermilion Sea, is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is enclosed by the Mexican mainland to the east and by the mountainous peninsula of Baja California to the west, with a coastline of approximately 4,000 km (2,500 mi).

The Gulf of California is about 750 miles (1,200 km) long and an average of 95 miles (153 km) wide (about 200 miles [320 km] at its mouth). It supports an extraordinary diversity of marine life, including many species of reef fish, sharks, whales, marine turtles, and the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise.

Rivers which flow into the Gulf of California include the Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Yaqui. The gulf's surface area is about 160,000 sq km (62,000 sq mi). Depths range from fording at the estuary near Yuma, Arizona, to in excess of 3,000 m (9,800 ft) in the deepest parts.

Geologic evidence is widely interpreted by geologists as indicating the Gulf of California came into being around 5.3 million years ago as tectonic forces rifted the Baja California Peninsula off the North American Plate. 

The Gulf of California contains 37 major islands – the two largest being Isla Ángel de la Guarda and Tiburón Island. The gulf has more than 900 islets and islands.

The Gulf of California is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet and is home to more than 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates. Home to over a million people, Baja California is the second-longest peninsula in the world, after the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Parts of the Gulf of California are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Gulf of California is Mexico’s most important fisheries region with commercial species of shrimp, sardine and giant squid. It is also important for sport fishing of billfishes and tuna. Tourists flock to the Gulf’s beautiful beaches and colorful reefs.