Baja California is an arid peninsula in northwestern Mexico. It is bounded north by the United States, east by the Gulf of California, and south and west by the Pacific Ocean. It is separated from the mainland by the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez or Vermilion Sea.
Baja California Peninsula
Baja California is an arid peninsula in northwestern Mexico. It is bounded north by the United States, east by the Gulf of California, and south and west by the Pacific Ocean. It separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. The Gulf of California and the Colorado River separate the peninsula from mainland Mexico.
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 about 65 islands. The total area of Baja California is 143,390 sq km (55,360 sq mi).
The Baja California peninsula has 2,038 mi (3,280 km) of coastline, with many islands on both sides. In addition, there are sheltered deepwater harbors on the western coast and the Gulf. The peninsula has four main desert areas: the San Felipe Desert, the Central Coast Desert, the Vizcaíno Desert, and the Magdalena Plain Desert.
The peninsula was once a part of the North American Plate, the tectonic plate of which mainland Mexico remains a part. The peninsula is now part of the Pacific Plate and is moving 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.
Baja California 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, formerly an island, has many species affinities to tropical Mexico.
Gulf of California
The Gulf of California, also known as the "Sea of Cortez" (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 1,200 km (750 mi) long and an average of 153 km (95 mi) wide (about 320 km [200 mi] at its mouth). It supports an extraordinary diversity of marine life, including many reef fish species, sharks, whales, marine turtles, and the vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise.
Rivers that flow into the Gulf of California include the Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Yaqui. The Gulf's surface area is about 160,000 sq km (62,000 sq mi).
The northern portion of the Gulf is relatively shallow, with a mean depth of 180 m (590 ft), while the southern portion contains many depressions, and the deepest of these depressions reaches a maximum depth of over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).
Geologists widely interpret geologic evidence 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. In addition, the Gulf has more than 900 islets and islands. It is considered one of the most diverse seas on the planet and is home to more than 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates.
Baja California is home to over a million people, 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 shrimp, sardines, and giant squid species. It is also important for sport fishing of billfish and tuna. In addition, tourists flock to the Gulf's beautiful beaches and colorful reefs.
Physical map of Mexico