Bahía Magdalena (Magdalena Bay) is a 50 km long bay in Comondú Municipality along the western coast of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. It is protected from the Pacific Ocean by the sandy barrier islands of Isla Magdalena and Isla Santa Margarita.
This bay is particularly noted for the seasonal migration of the California gray whales that come here during winter to mate. The bay is also popular for commercial and sports fishing. Nearby mangrove swamps provide sanctuaries for sea birds. The bay includes the small fishing port of San Carlos, as well as Puerto López Mateos, which provides a good place to observe the whales.
In 1908, an American fleet of sixteen battleships on a cruise around the world, the Great White Fleet, stopped in the Bay and carried out gunnery practice. In 1912, there were rumors that Japan tried to purchase the harbor from Mexico. Barbara Tuchman's book The Zimmerman Telegram mentions both the German kaiser as well as the Japanese Emperor were attempting to utilize this bay and perhaps Whale Bay for military naval purposes.
The great Bahía Magdalena is not only the gate entrance to the Pacific, it is also a unique universe where men who are dedicated to exploit sea species live nomadically with their diverse habitat. It is a natural reserve of gray whales that arrive to its waters to fulfill their biological cycle during the months of January to March. The bay is 50 km long and the Islands of Magdalena and Margarita contribute with the counter coastline that protects it from the strong waves which characterize the Pacific Ocean. The elongated form and little altitude of the islands, shaped almost totally by white sand dunes, permits to enjoy simultaneously the inside and outside ocean view from some of its points. A very beautiful coastline offers plenty of beaches, inlets, marshes and mangrove swamps that are the sanctuary of resident and migratory sea birds and its waters are rich in species for commercial and sports fishing. San Carlos has a big power plant and the most important seaport in Baja California Sur.
It is the outlet to agricultural production of Valle de Santo Domingo. Cargo ships, tourist cruisers, yachts and fishing boats can be observed in the port activities. Puerto López Mateos has a Sea Product Cannery.
Due to its location, its narrow channel and its closeness to the bay entrance (Boca de la Soledad), it is one of the best sites in the peninsula for gray whale watching. Bahía Magdalena, due to its size, richness and strategic position has been coveted since memorable times by foreign governments, whalers and adventurers.
In 1864 it was included within the land of the Leese Concession, granted by the Government of Juárez. Incapable of fulfilling the agreement signed by the Government of Mexico, Leese transferred his rights to the Lower California Co. This enterprise tried to start a settlement in the vast territory not very clearly done. Hundreds of settlers were brought down by trickery and used to exploit the orchil factory which the enterprise started without prior authorization. Later on the Government granted the concession for six more years from Cabo San Lucas up to the 27th Parallel, which caused the opening of Puerto de Bahía Magdalena to seagoing traffic. Finally, the Government of Mexico was able to get the land back, due to the fact that Lower California Co. did not comply with the agreement.
From 1902 to 1920 approximately, U.S. Navy warships invaded the bay and performed maneuvers violating the national sovereignty in countless occasions while the successive governments of that country made all possible attempts to keep it. In order to protect its sovereignty, the Mexican Government had to establish a Marine Navy Base in Isla Margarita.
Today, there are two more ports in the bay: the seaport of San Carlos and the Port of Lopez Mateos.et to agricultural production of Valle de Santo Domingo. Cargo ships, tourist cruisers, yachts and fishing boats can be observed in the port activities. Puerto López Mateos has a Sea Product Cannery.
Due to its location, its narrow channel and its closeness to the bay entrance (Boca de la Soledad), it is one of the best sites in the peninsula for gray whale sighting