CALIFORNIA LOWER. The name California, the origin of which is disputed, was given first to this peninsula (also called Old California) and later extended to the region northward. It is a territory of the republic of Mexico and is separated from the rest of the land by the Gulf of California and the Colorado River. It is 750 miles long by 30 to 150 broad. Its area is a little more than a third that of the state of California. Its capital, La Paz, in the extreme south on the gulf side, has a population of about 5,000. The surface of the country is mostly mountainous. The climate is hot and dry, especially in the northern part, and little farming is carried on there except in some of the valleys. The south, however, has more rain and some fertile tracts, with a mild and pleasant climate. By means of irrigation, grapes, grains, tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane are raised. Whale fishing on the west coast and pearl fishing on the gulf are carried on to some extent.
The country is rich in gold, silver, copper, lead, coal, salt, and other mineral deposits, but mining enter prises have met with little success. The extension of the California railway system southward into the peninsula, since 1907, holds out prospects of more rapid development. La Paz has a good harbor, while the excellence of Magdalena Bay, on the Pacific side, has caused it to be coveted by foreign powers for a naval station.
The coast of Lower California was explored by orders of Cortez, the conqueror of Mexico, in 1539.
The first permanent settlements, dating from 1697, were made by the Jesuits, who were active in mission work among the Indians.