Gulf of California, also called Sea of Cortez, Spanish Golfo de California, or Mar de Cortés, large inlet of the eastern Pacific Ocean along the northwestern coast of Mexico. It is enclosed by the Mexican mainland to the east and by the mountainous peninsula of Baja California to the west. It was named in honor of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (or “Cortez”) by Francisco de Ulloa in 1539. Ulloa originally believed that the gulf led to the mythical Strait of Anian, which connected the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Gulf of California is home to 900 species of fish, 695 vascular plant species, 39% of the marine mammals in the world, and 1/3 of the planet’s marine cetacean species, making it the biologically richest body of water on Earth.
The Gulf of California (Spanish: Golfo de California), also known as the Sea of Cortés (Mar de Cortés) or Sea of Cortez, or less commonly as the Vermilion Sea (Mar Bermejo), is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is bordered by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa with a coastline of approximately 4,000 km (2,500 mi). Rivers that flow into the Gulf of California include the Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Yaqui. The surface of the gulf is about 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi). Maximum depths exceed 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) because of the complex geology, linked to plate tectonics.
The gulf is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on Earth and is home to more than 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates. Parts of the Gulf of California are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temperature of the water in the gulf generally experiences lows of 16 °C (61 °F) in winter and highs of 24 °C (75 °F) in summer. But temperatures can vary greatly in the gulf, and the water is almost always warmer by the coast than the open ocean.
Between Mexico’s mainland and the Baja California Peninsula lies the Gulf of California, a mystical frontier of splendid coastlines and turquoise waters. But overfishing, pollution and climate change are all posing serious threats to the region’s unique biodiversity.
Can you swim in the Gulf of California?
Sea Life. Although it is not the coral-rich environment of the Caribbean, the Gulf of California still hosts a spectacular range of sea life. Instead of corals, snorkelers can swim above thick forests of kelp.
The Gulf of California stretches over 900 miles and supports an extraordinary diversity of marine life, including many species of reef fish, sharks, whales, marine turtles, and the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise.
Is the Gulf of California salt water?
The surface salinity varies between 35‰ and 35.8‰ with little seasonal change. The subsurface salinity distribution (50-100 m deep) indicates that there is an inflow of low- salinity water along the east coast and an outflow of high-salinity water along the west coast.
The International Hydrographic Organization defines the southern limit of the gulf as: “A line joining Piaxtla Point (latitude 23°38’N) on the west coast of the mainland of Mexico, and the southern extreme of Lower California”.
The gulf is 1,126 km (700 mi) long and 48–241 km (30–150 mi) wide, with an area of 177,000 km2 (68,000 sq mi), a mean depth of 818.08 m (2,684.0 ft), and a volume of 145,000 km3 (35,000 cu mi).
Geologic evidence is widely interpreted by geologists as indicating the gulf came into being around 5.3 million years ago as tectonic forces rifted the Baja California Peninsula off the North American Plate. As part of this process, the East Pacific Rise propagated up the middle of the Gulf along the seabed. This extension of the East Pacific Rise is often referred to as the Gulf of California Rift Zone. The Gulf would extend as far as Indio, California, except for the tremendous delta created by the Colorado River. This delta blocks the sea from flooding the Mexicali and Imperial Valleys. Volcanism dominates the East Pacific Rise. The island of Isla Tortuga is one example of this ongoing volcanic activity. Furthermore, hydrothermal vents due to extension tectonic regime, related to the opening of the gulf, are found in the Bahía de Concepción, Baja California Sur.
The Gulf of California includes three faunal regions:
the Northern Gulf
the Central Gulf
the Southern Gulf
One recognized transition zone is termed the Southwestern Baja California Peninsula. Transition zones exist between faunal regions, and they usually vary for each individual species. (Faunal regions are distinguishable based on the specific types of animals found there.
Is the Gulf of California deep?
Was California once underwater?
During the early Paleozoic, California was covered by a warm shallow sea inhabited by marine invertebrates such as ammonites, brachiopods, corals, and trilobites. During the Carboniferous and Permian periods, swamps covered areas of the state no longer submerged by the sea.
See also: List of islands of Mexico § Gulf of California
The gulf contains 37 major islands – the two largest being Isla Ángel de la Guarda and Isla Tiburón. Most of the islands are found on the west side of the gulf. In fact, many of the islands of the gulf are the result of volcanic eruptions that occurred during the early history of Baja California. The islands of Islas Marías, Islas San Francisco, and Isla Partida are thought to be the result of such eruptions. The formations of the islands, however, are not dependent on each other. They were each formed as a result of an individual structural occurrence. Several islands, including Isla Coronados, are home to volcanoes.
The gulf has more than 900 islets and islands which together total about 420 hectares. All of them as a whole were enacted as “Area Reserve and Migratory Bird Refuge and Wildlife” on August 2, 1978. In June 2000, the islands were designated a flora and fauna protection area. In addition to this effort by the Mexican government, for its importance and recognition worldwide, all islands in the gulf are also part of the international program “Man and Biosphere” (MAB) and are part of the World Reserve Network UNESCO Biosphere as Special Biosphere Reserve. Because of the vast expanse covered by this federal protected area, conservation and management is carried out through a system of four regional directorates (one per bordering the Gulf of California state). The work of direct and indirect conservation done in the islands is governed by a single management program, published in 2000, which is complemented by local and specific management programs. The Directorate of Protection Area Wildlife California Gulf Islands in Baja California is responsible for 56 islands located off the coast of the state. These are grouped into four archipelagos: San Luis Gonzaga or Enchanted, Guardian Angel, Bahia de los Angeles and San Lorenzo.