CALIFORNIA, LOWER (Baja California), a long narrow peninsula between the Gulf of California and the Pacific ocean, forming a territory of the Republic of Mexico. Its population in 1910 was 52,272 and in 1921 was 62,831. Lower California is, geographically, a southward extension of the State of California, U.S.A., and is touched by only one of the Mexican States, that of Sonora on the north-eastern corner. The peninsula is about 760 m. in length, from 3o to 15o m. in width and has an area of sq. miles. It is traversed throughout its length by an irregular range of mountains, which slopes gently toward the Pacific but breaks down abruptly toward the gulf. The coast has two or three good, sheltered bays, that of La Paz on the gulf side and that of Magdalena on the Pacific side being the best. The coast is bordered by numerous islands, particularly on the eastern side. The general appearance of the surface is arid and desolate, partly because of the volcanic rocks with which a large part of the land is covered, and partly because of the scanty rainfall, which is insufficient to support vegetation other than that of the desert, except in a few better watered valleys and on the high mountains of the north. The northern part of the peninsula, however, is much like southern California. Its climate is similar, with mild temperatures the year round on the Pacificward slope, and with light rains confined almost entirely to the winter season. The southern section is warmer and receives rain only in the summer. The central region is the most arid, being a pronounced desert. The Gulf coast, sheltered from the marine influence, is hot and dry, habitable only in a few widely separated valleys where water exists in sufficient quantities for irrigation. In such spots sugar-cane, cotton, a few cereals and grapes are grown, but only to a limited extent. In the desert sections the only product of commercial importance is orchil or Spanish moss. The most productive agricultural region of Lower California is the extension of the Colorado river delta-plain southward of the Mexican American, border. Here, in 1925, there were 217,000 acres under intensive cultivation, being irrigated from the river and from the Imperial valley canal, which, for some 6o m. runs through Mexi can territory. Cotton is the chief crop. The land is owned prin cipally by Americans but the labourers employed are Mexicans and Asiatics. Some stock-raising is carried on in the better watered valleys of the peninsula and on the high mountains (the San Pedro Martir range) in the north. The territory is quite rich in minerals. A little silver and gold is being mined in the northern district back of Ensenada; copper deposits are worked at Santa Rosalia and Mulege on the east coast, while the southern district produces small amounts of silver and lead at San Antonio, El Triunfo and Cacachilas, north of Cape St. Lucas. The silver mines near La Paz were worked by the Jesuits as early as 1700. There are also extensive pearl fisheries in the gulf, La Paz being the headquarters of the industry, and whale fisheries on the west coast in the vicinity of Magdalena bay, where large catches are reported annually. The waters of the west coast also yield great quantities of sardines and tuna fish to many Dalmatian, Japanese and American fishermen, who make their headquarters at San Diego and San Pedro, Calif. The development of the territory has been delayed by lack of a railway system in the peninsula, no lines penetrating it except the San Diego-Arizona railway which runs south of the border for a short way between San Diego and Yuma.
The territory is divided into two districts, the northern having as its capital Mexicali (pop. 1921 ; 6,782) across the border from the Imperial valley of California, and the southern having its cap ital at La Paz, at the head of a deep bay opening into the Gulf. La Paz is a port of call for steamers running between Guaymas or Mazatlan and the west coast cities of the United States. In 1921 it had a population of 7,480. Ensenada (pop. in 1921; 2,178) 65 m. south of San Diego and connected with it by a motor road, is the only port for the northern Pacific coast of the territory, and supplies a district extending 25o m. along the coast and some 6o m. inland, including several mining centres, though it has no good roads except to the American border. Its chief activity is supply ing border towns with alcoholic beverages. It was formerly the capital of the northern district.
By order of Cortes the coast of Lower California was explored in 1539 by Francisco de Ulloa, but no settlements resulted. It was named California at that time, the name being derived, ap parently, from an island mentioned in a popular Spanish romance, Sergas de Esplandidn. The name was at first applied exclusively to the peninsula; later, on the supposition that a strait connected the Pacific with the head of the Gulf of California, the name Islas Californias, was used. This theory was held as late as 1721. The first European settlement was made in 1597, but was abandoned. A Jesuit mission was founded at Loreto in 1697 and another at La Paz in 1720. By, 1776 there were 16 missions among the Indians. The settlement of Upper California began in 1769, with the founding of San Diego. In 1804 the region was di vided into Alta and Baja Californias, but was reunited in 1825. Lower California was little disturbed by the struggle for inde pendence in Mexico, but in the war between the United States and Mexico, La Paz and other towns' were occupied by small de tachments operating from California. In 1853 a filibustering ex pedition against Sonora under William Walker took possession of La Paz and proclaimed a republic consisting of Sonora and the peninsula. Fearing an attack from the mainland, the filibusters first withdrew to Ensenada, near the American border, and next year broke up during an attempt to invade Sonora by land.
Series, No. 220 (Wash., 1922) ; A. de Vivanco, Baja California al Dia, Lower California Up to Date (in English and Spanish) (Los Angeles, 2924)•