Geography

The Baja peninsula has a relatively diverse topography with its coastal plains, continental and coastal mountains, and plateaus.

 

 

Peninsular Ranges

PENINSULAR RANGES

The Sierra de Baja California, or Peninsular Ranges, divide the peninsula down the middle as they stretch down from southern California. The Sierra de Juarez and the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir are the largest among these mountain ranges, and the highest point of Baja California lies in these ranges with Picacho del Diablo at 10,147 feet (3,095 m). The mountains play an important role in Baja California’s climate. The eastern region of the peninsula is largely protected by the mountain ranges and tends to be more arid whereas the western region aligns with the Pacific Ocean and tends to be more temperate.

Valleys line the regions between the mountains that comprise the Peninsular Ranges. These valleys constitute much of Baja’s agriculture. The Colorado and Tijuana Rivers are the peninsula’s main water source, and with wells and dams the valleys are able to receive the necessary water for Baja’s agriculture.

 

Coastal Environment

COASTAL ENVIRONMENT

Located near the Tropic of Cancer, the south gulf is renowned for its combination of desert and tropical landscapes. Huge cacti forests, mangrove channels, and a great diversity of birdlife make it a paradise for the senses. The gulf has a subtropical marine environment, though the peninsula offers a climate that is more continental than oceanic because it’s comprised of long stretches of mountain ranges.

Baja California boasts of more than 3,000 miles of coastline where you can also find diverse topography. To the west, the waves of the Pacific Ocean have shaped shallow bays where marine life enjoy the mild water and many narrow spits of land that project into the sea. Some of these areas include the the Laguna San Ignacio lying west of San Ignacio, Laguna Ojo de Liebre neighboring Guerrero Negro, and the Bahía Magdalena that’s west of Ciudad. To the east, the coast is comprised of steeper cliffs and some of Baja’s most beloved sites such as the Bahía de La Paz, Bahía Concepción, and Bahía de Los Angeles.

FUN FACT:

The gulf is also referred to as the Vermilion Sea because of the red color of the plankton blooms, similar to the Red Sea.

Sea Formations

BAJA’S UNIQUE SEA FORMATIONS

Gulf waves have created fascinating sea formations throughout Baja’s coastal regions that draw visitors year after year. One of the most famed is the Cabo San Lucas Arch, a unique rock arch that lies on the extremity of Cabo San Lucas. The rugged rock arch is also called El Arco and also tends to be referred to as Land’s End. The moniker Land’s End is not merely a pithy allusion to it being the tip of Cabo San Lucas; rather, El Arco gained its name because, as the crow flies, you could follow a southern course to the South Pole without meeting land. This location marks the point where the Pacific Ocean turns into the Gulf of California, or the Sea of Cortez.  Hop on a panga and look at the sun shadowing the toffee-colored rocks while sea lions bask below.

Behind El Arco lies the visually stunning and remote Playa del Amor, or Lover’s Beach. This is a hidden cove accessible only by water whose azure tropical waters and white sand beach give a somnolent sanctuary to colonies of corals, fish, and sea lions. Lover’s Beach faces of the Sea of Cortez and although the bay has been somewhat eroded by hurricanes, its beauty has made it Baja’s most famous beach. From the secluded beach of Playa del Amor you can look up at the towering rock foundations or look at the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean against the sands of its sister beach—fondly referred to as Divorce Beach by locals.

Around 164 feet off of Playa del Amor divers can also find an immense underwater canyon. This canyon is, in part, known for its colorful coral and for attracting fish not commonly found so close to shore. However, the canyon’s real draw is the “sandfalls.” In the canyon, sand cascades from the tributaries over the canyon’s rim and form sand rivers that run through the canyon’s rock formations. At around 40 meters, the large rock formations become steep granite walls that have a vertical drop of over 9,000 feet. It’s an amazing geological phenomenon that was first witnessed in 1960 by Scripps Institute of Oceanography and has since received further exploration and documentation.

Of course, not all of Baja’s impressive geological landforms are in Cabo San Lucas. La Paz is home to the famous “mushroom rock,” which rises above the ocean on its fragile perch in Balandra Beach. Carved daily by patient waves, this rock formation has a high resemblance to the fungus with its thin stalk that supports a blooming granitic head of rock.   

If you have an opportunity to travel to Baja California Norte, you can visit the incredible geological phenomenon of La Bufadora, or the blowhole. This is a natural marine geyser that lies off the shores of Ensenada on the Punta Banda peninsula. La Bufadora is technically a cave where the waves are forced into the partially submerged cave. Inside the cave, the water and air merge which causes an increase in pressure. Ultimately, the pressure increases until the water explodes vertically, shooting out of the cave. The geyser can reach heights of up to 80 feet, making it one of the world’s biggest marine geysers. La Bufadora is often thought of as a legend taking nature’s form. Legend has it that a baby whale visiting Baja’s waters was separated from its pod and got stuck in the peninsula’s rocks. Once stuck, the baby whale attempted to blow jets of water as a call for help, but eventually the whale merged with the rocks and remained.