Bahía de los Ángeles
|Bahía de los Ángeles|
From top down: Panorama of the Bahia, Punta Areanas Lighthouse, Harbor View, Sail Sculpture, Dolphins, Sunrise over Cabeza de Caballo, Museo de Naturaleza y Cultura, Sunset behind Sierra de San Borja
|Nickname(s): Bay of L.A., L.A. Bay|
|Elevation||26 ft (8 m)|
|Time zone||Northwest (US PST) (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||Northwest (UTC-7)|
Bahía de los Ángeles ("Bay of the Angels") is a coastal bay on the Gulf of California, located along the eastern shore of the Baja California Peninsula in the state of Baja California, Mexico. The town of the same name is located at the east end of Federal Highway 12 about 42 miles (68 km) from the Parador Punta Prieta junction on Federal Highway 1.
The area was known as Adac to the Cochimí people, the aboriginal inhabitants of the central part of the Baja California peninsula. In the early 1600s there were approximately 3000 Cochimi inhabiting the area.
In 1539 Francisco de Ulloa was the first European to discover the Bay in what was the final expedition financed by Hernán Cortés. The area known then as the Bahía de Lobos (Bay of Sea Lions) was explored again in 1746 by the Jesuit missionary Fernando Consag during his attempt to investigate the disputed question involving the Island of California. Consag is credited with giving the area its current name. In 1752 a loading dock was built to explore Mission San Borja, and the entire Baja California Peninsula.
After the departure of the Jesuits from the Baja Missions, the surrounding settlements, known at the time as visitas ("visiting chapels"), were gradually taken over by the locals, Bahia being one of them. By 1880 the interest in precious metals had spread to the Bahia region. In 1900 another loading dock was built to export gold and silver obtained from the mines of Sierra San Borja, San Juan, and Santa Martha. The San Juan silver mine at Las Flores became the largest producing mine in all of Baja. The mine was connected to the Bahia by an eight mile narrow-gauge railroad allowing the ore to be transferred to the port there. The value of the silver produced by the mine was estimated (in 2002) to be 2 million U.S. dollars.
In the mid 20th century there were only a handful of families residing in the area. Among those were the Daggetts (the children and grandchildren of Englishman Dick Daggett Sr.), the family of Tilongo Smith, the Ocañas, Navarros, and Corderos. Señor Antero “Papa” Diaz (1914-1989) was the leading citizen of the pueblo known as Bahía de los Ángeles. Diaz and his wife, Cruz Rosas Ortiz "Mama" Diaz, originated in Mexico City and came to the bahia to work the mine at Las Flores. Diaz became Delegado del Gobierno (Mayor) and built the first school house and the first church in Bahia. He was instrumental in establishing the town as a sport fishing resort by building a hotel and an airstrip. This allowed fishermen to reach the bahia by air without making the 3 day drive from Ensenada. The original “Casa Diaz” hotel consisted of Mama's restaurant and 6 cabins with primitive showers.
Bahia is also the home of the "Museo de Naturaleza y Cultura", established in 1988 by American Carolina Shepard and built by volunteers. It is a simple building decorated with reproductions of local cave paintings and located near the town square and municipal offices. It houses an eclectic collection of artifacts ranging from mining equipment and Indian artifacts to examples of local marine life and photographs of notable historical citizens. A 30 foot-long skeleton of a juvenile gray whale, assembled by students from Ensenada, hangs from the ceiling. Of the 600 species of shells in the Sea of Cortés, the museum's collection contains 500. There is even a photograph of Mama Diaz next to Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh had stopped in 1965 during his flight to Laguna San Ignacio to see the gray whales.
The area has a desert climate. At the north end of the bay lies Punta la Gringa and to the south is Playa Rincon. There are 16 islands off the coast. On the eastern horizon lies Isla Ángel de la Guarda separated from the other islands by the Canal de las Ballenas. To the west are the Sierra de San Borja responsible for the occasional hot, dry winds known locally as "Westies" which can go from zero to over 50 knots in a matter of minutes.
There is a lighthouse located on Isla Cabeza de Caballo, an island in the center of the channel into the town. A second lighthouse is located at the entrance to the harbor on Punta Areanas, a sand spit partially sheltering the waterfront of Bahía.
Bahia is notable as an anchorage and safe harbor. The nearby Don Juan Cove is another ideal safe harbor.
In 2007 Mexican President Felipe Calderón in cooperation with the nongovernmental organization Pronatura Noroeste, Mexico’s National Commission for Protected Areas, the Global Conservation Fund (GCF) and others established the Bahía de los Ángeles Biosphere Reserve to protect the unique ecology of the region. It covers an area of almost 1500 square miles (387,956 hectares) and includes a portion of the Baja coastline, all 16 islands, numerous smaller islands and islets and the Canal de Salsipuedes and Canal de las Ballenas. The reserve protects a diverse marine population including many endangered species including whale sharks, fin whales, California sea lions and five species of sea turtle.
Overfishing of the region has made it increasingly difficult for residents to support themselves. The local economy is shifting from commercial fishing to guided sports fishing and other forms of tourism. Bahia is home to perhaps a dozen pangueros who specialize in sport fishing. Before the highway into the area was paved, the town was known as a transit point for drugs on the way to the U.S.A. In 2007, power lines from Guerrero Negro were completed, ending reliance on diesel generators. There is internet access via satellite. Every other year the Baja 1000 passes through town. The Bahía de los Ángeles Airport is just north of the town.
Bay of LA is popular for activities such as kayaking, wind surfing, and tourism in addition to being a sports fisherman's paradise. Bahia is famous for its fabulous fishing. The most common game fish being Yellowtail (Jurel), a type of sport fish that lives off the shore of California and Mexico. Yellowtail from this region can grow up to 5 feet long and can weigh up to 100 pounds. Other sport fish from this region include Seabass (Cabrilla), Snapper (Pargo), Grouper, Sierra, Bonito and the occasional Dorado. Non-sport fish like Triggerfish, Barracuda and others exist in abundance. There are colonies of sea lions near Isla Coronado known locally as "Smith Island", and another South of Punta Animas. The bay is also famous for its Whale Sharks with 20 to 30 visiting the area each summer.
About 15 – 20 miles west of town are the prehistoric rock paintings of Montevideo, part of the Great Mural region considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Baja California. Known officially as Pinturas Rupestres de Valle Montevideo they are estimated by some to be 10,000 years old.
Marine biologist Antonio Resendiz ran a sea turtle research facility north of town. The area around Bahia de los Angeles provides nesting grounds for many species of sea turtles. Beginning in 1979 the officially named "Centro Regional de Investigacion Pesquera (CRIP)" had conducted sea turtle research and conservation. Antonio, who studied marine biology at the University of Ensenada, established the research station first with the help of the Mexican Instituto de Pesca and later through the help of American biochemist Dr. Grant Bartlett. Antonio made news in 1995 when one of his turtles, a 213 pound loggerhead named Rosita, was discovered off the coast of Japan by local fishermen. The discovery established the migration path of loggerheads for the first time.
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