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Baja: Planned Sites

Baja California, Mexico

The rugged Baja peninsula extends 806 miles from the U.S. – Mexico border to its southernmost point at Cabo San Lucas. The peninsula is bordered on its west coast by the Pacific Ocean and on the east coast by the calmer waters of the Sea of Cortez. The land between these two bodies of water is remarkably varied from the forested high mountain ranges running through the central region, to the four desert sub-regions, each with its own distinct geography and flora, to the salt marshes and mangrove swamps of the coasts, to the arid tropical forests of the southern Cape region.

Planned Sites in Baja California, Mexico

Rancho San Gregorio

Rancho San Gregorio lies at the heart of Vizcaíno Desert and the recently designated Valle de los Cirios Biological Reserve. Two important springs supply the area with the abundant source of water that has been vital for supporting the unique flora and fauna that call this region home. Descendants of the Villavicencio family have been the primary residents of San Gregorio since before the arrival of the Spanish in the late 1600s. Traditional knowledge of local plants for use in medicine, construction, and subsistence has been passed down over the millennia and remains vital to the way of life in San Gregorio today. Westerly winds carrying moisture-laden air from the Pacific support astonishingly rich and diverse vegetation in parts of the Vizcaíno desert. Due to its high degree of isolation, the region also supports numerous endangered species, including the desert pronghorn antelope, Mexican bighorn sheep, cardon cactus, and cirio (boojum) tree. Rancho San Gregorio is located in a small canyon on the western slope of the Peninsular Ranges of Baja California, and its isolation and climate make it a hotspot for desert ecological study.

Bahía de los Ángeles

The small fishing village of Bahía de los Ángeles is located in the San Felipe Desert on the shores of the Sea of Cortez. In contrast to the sparse desert landscape, the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez are rich with life. Locals depend on the highly productive waters for their livelihood but commercial overfishing has made it increasingly difficult for residents to support themselves and has threatened many species living in the bay.

In recognition of the importance of Bahía de los Ángeles and surrounding areas, UNESCO designated the region a World Heritage Site in 2005: “The diversity of terrestrial and marine life is extraordinary and constitutes a unique ecoregion of high priority for biodiversity conservation.”

In 2007, Mexican President Felipe Calderon established the Bahía de Los Ángeles Biosphere Reserve. The reserve encompasses 957,660 acres of coastal, marine, and island ecosystems that provide habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species including whale sharks, eastern Pacific green sea turtles, fin whales, and killer whales. The area is often referred to as the “Galapagos” of Mexico for the spectacular nature of its scenery and the unique plant and animal species that inhabit the region.

The Vermilion Sea Field Station (VSFS) is a research center overlooking Bahía de Los Ángeles in Baja California. This twelve-room adobe building is one of the first dwellings built during the town’s original settlement in the 1930’s. The VSFS lies within a small fishing village of approximately 700 people, and works with the community to preserve the “Bay of the Angels”.

(Course locations are subject to change.)