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/Public Domain

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 twelfth largest state in Mexico.

Mexicali is the capital of Baja California and over 75% 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.

Baja California has most recently been in the news due to a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck the state on April 4, ​2010 near Mexicali. Most of the damage from the ​earthquake was in Mexicali and nearby Calexico. The earthquake was felt throughout the Mexican state and into Southern California cities like Los Angeles and San Diego. It was the largest earthquake to hit the region since 1892.

The following is a list of ten 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.
  1. As of 2005, Baja California had a population of 2,844,469. 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.
  2. 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 which 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 source of water for Baja California is 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 one of the best educational systems in Mexico and over 90% of children aged six to 14 attend school. Baja California also has 32 universities with 19 serving as research centers in fields like physics, oceanography, and aerospace.
  3. Baja California also has a strong economy and is 3.3% 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.


The Nature Conservancy. (n.d.). The Nature Conservancy in Mexico - Baja and the Gulf of California

United States Geological Survey. (2010, April 5). Magnitude 7.2 - Baja California, Mexico

Wikipedia. (2010, April 5). Baja California - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia