Baja California


This page describes some of the natural aspects of the Baja California peninsula with an emphasis on the succulent flora.  One of us (MD) has been traveling through Baja California since 1972 or so – before the entire peninsula was connected by a paved road.  Together we traveled the length of the Baja California peninsula in 1987, then again several times in 2004 as part of research work to establish meteorological stations for a field experiment.  In 2019 we returned with two Mexican biologists to more fully explore aspects of the peninsula with modern digital cameras and with a better understanding of the flora and biogeography of the region.  This website uses detailed notes and some photographs from our earlier exploration, together with material from the 2019 trip (route), to provide an overview of what we think are some of the highlights for the natural history traveler.

Why travel to Baja California if you are a naturalist?  What is unique to the peninsula?  What should you understand before traveling there to appreciate better what you will see? Here are some aspects that come to mind:

Very different desert vegetation that you will find nowhere else on earth

Fog/low cloud impacted coastal environments

Extreme rain shadow deserts

A gradual climate shift with latitude along the peninsula from winter to summer rain regime as one proceeds southward

Relatively empty landscapes

Good accessibility to landscapes for the driving naturalist

Access to diverse coastal and oceanic environments for snorkeling or beachcombing

What the peninsula lacks are truly moist environments (wet forests etc).

Links to specific pages

We have broken down this material into the following sections. Please click on the following links to see more about each subject.

Geography and geology of the peninsula

Climate of the peninsula

Flora and fauna

Northwest coast

Northern mountains

The coastal to desert transition

Central Desert

Gulf Coast Desert

Vizcaíno Plain (Punta Prieta to San Ignacio)

Magdalena Plain

Sierra Giganta

Cape Region

Summary of the peninsula’s highlights

Travel suggestions

In writing up a summary of the Baja California peninsula for this website it became apparent that a great deal has already been written and put online regarding the natural aspects of the peninsula.  This is in addition the much greater quantity of information about general travel to the region, with resort and hotel information typical of travel guides.  There was so much information available that we even questioned adding our own website.  We decided to continue because this page can serve to help naturalists to find various sources of information that they might otherwise have to spend many hours searching for (as we have done).  Plus, it would serve as a small repository of photos we took during a 15-day botanically-inclined trip along the peninsula in April 2019.

As with newer additions to this website, our effort is to make the content less of a “personal trip report” and something more of an independent perspective usable by more travelers.  Personal trip reports are interesting, but as we have visited the peninsula multiple times before, starting for one of us (MD) around 1970, this website tries to generalize these experiences. Prior to 2019 our previous extensive travel to the Baja California peninsula was during a 2004 meteorological field experiment, when we drove the entire peninsula twice, deploying instruments and training observers.

We have supplemented our photos and experiences with material from some other websites, books and journal articles.  For most naturalists the single best source of information is the Baja California Plant Field Guide (2012)  by Jon Rebman, Botanical Curator at the San Diego Natural History Museum and Norman Roberts (died 2009) – who was the co-author of previous versions of the book.  In fact we had the first version,  self-published by the authors Jeanette Coyle and Norman Roberts in 1975.  The 2012 version has much more information on the different floristic environments of the peninsula as well as the geology and climate.  Any prospective naturalist traveler to Baja California should obtain this latest guide, most conveniently at AmazonIt is extremely affordable given the many photos, good maps and quality printing.

Our website will add, in addition to more photos of landscapes and plants, some novel climate and weather information about the peninsula that would be difficult to find elsewhere.  Also we provide some discussion about travel logistics and specific locations not to be missed (with our own personal biases).  The latter will be especially valuable to naturalists.

Map of floristic regions reproduced from Baja California Plant Field Guide by Rebman and Roberts (2012). This is similar to earlier depictions of the different components of the Sonoran Desert but also includes non-desert environments (primarily north-coastal and mountain environments).

We focus on the flora of the peninsula because it is reliable in that the visitor is guaranteed to see it, under all weather conditions.  Animals, while interesting cannot guarantee their visibility “on-demand”.  We do note some unique aspects of both the flora and fauna of the peninsula in the flora and fauna section.

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