Geography of Baja California

Learn Ten Facts about Mexico's Baja California

Isla Partida, part of the San Lorenzo Marine Archipelago National Park

Traveljournalist/Wikimedia Commons

Baja California is a state in northern Mexico and is the westernmost state in the country. It encompasses an area of 27,636 square miles (71,576 sq km) and borders the Pacific Ocean on the west; Sonora, Arizona, and the Gulf of California on the east; Baja California Sur to the south; and California to the north. By area, Baja California is the 12th largest state in Mexico, which has 31 states and a federal district.

Mexicali is the capital of Baja California, and more than 75 percent of the population lives in that city or in Ensenada or Tijuana. Other large cities in Baja California include San Felipe, Playas de Rosarito, and Tecate.

The following is a list of 10 geographic facts to know about Baja California:

  1. It is believed that people first settled on the Baja Peninsula around 1,000 years ago and that the region was dominated by only a few Native American groups. Europeans did not reach the area until 1539.
  2. Control of Baja California shifted between various groups in its early history, and it was not admitted into Mexico as a state until 1952. In 1930, the Baja California peninsula was divided into northern and southern territories. However, in 1952, the northern region (everything above the 28th parallel) became the 29th state of Mexico, while southern areas remained as a territory.
  3. Baja California's State System of Sociodemographic Information estimated the population would be 3.6 million by mid-2018. The dominant ethnic groups in the state are white/European and Mestizo or mixed American Indian or European. Native Americans and East Asians also make up a large percentage of the state's population.
  4. Baja California is divided into five municipalities. They are Ensenada, Mexicali, Tecate, Tijuana and Playas de Rosarito.
  1. As a peninsula, Baja California is surrounded by water on three sides with borders on the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. The state also has diverse topography but it is divided in the middle by the Sierra de Baja California or the Peninsular Ranges. The largest of these ranges are the Sierra de Juarez and the Sierra de San Pedro Martir. The highest point of these ranges and of Baja California is Picacho del Diablo at 10,157 feet (3,096 m).
  2. Between the mountains of the Peninsular Ranges are various valley regions that are rich in agriculture. However, the mountains also play a role in Baja California's climate, as the western portion of the state is mild due to its presence near the Pacific Ocean, while the eastern portion lies on the leeward side of the ranges and is arid through much of its area. The Sonoran Desert, which also runs into the United States, is in this area.
  3. Baja California is extremely biodiverse along its coasts. The Nature Conservancy calls the region "The World's Aquarium," as the Gulf of California and Baja California's shores are home to one-third of Earth's marine mammal species. California sea lions live on the state's islands, while various types of whales, including the blue whale, breed in the region's waters.
  1. The main sources of water for Baja California are the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers. The Colorado naturally empties into the Gulf of California, but because of upstream uses, it rarely reaches the area. The rest of the state's water comes from wells and dams, but clean drinking water is a large issue in the region.
  2. Baja California has 32 universities with 19 serving as research centers in fields such as physics, oceanography, and aerospace. In TES Global Limited's rankings of the 1,100 best universities in the world, the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) made the list in 2018.
  3. Baja California also has a strong economy and is 3.3 percent of Mexico's gross domestic product. This is mainly through manufacturing in the form of maquiladoras. Tourism and service industries are also large fields in the state.