San Ignacio is a palm oasis town in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, located between Guerrero Negro and Santa Rosalía. The town had a 2010 census population of 667 inhabitants and grew at the site of the Cochimí settlement of Kadakaamán and the Jesuit Mission San Ignacio founded in 1728 by Juan Bautista Luyando.
At San Ignacio, Baja California's arid Central Desert terrain gives way to a large grove of lush green date palms. A large spring-fed pond and small river on the outskirts of town feeds into the central plaza and village next to the eighteenth-century Jesuit mission. San Ignacio serves as the gateway to San Ignacio Lagoon, the winter time sanctuary of the Pacific Gray Whale.
The locale has certain basaltic soils, providing clues as to the volcanic history of this region. There are a variety of desert flora and fauna in the vicinity of San Ignacio, notably including the Elephant tree, (Bursera microphylla).
San Ignacio is located approximately 866 km./567 miles from the San Diego, California|/Tijuana border crossing, about a 10-12 hour drive. One can travel on Mexican Federal Highway 1 by vehicle to arrive in San Ignacio. Highway 1 is a well-maintained, four-lane, toll highway from Tijuana to Ensenada, Baja California. South of Ensenada, Highway 1 becomes a narrow (but relatively well-maintained) two-lane highway. Slow but steady progress is being made to support the tourism industry and Pemex gas stations are now located in every major town through which Highway 1 travels on the way to San Ignacio, both from the North and from the South. Driving only during daylight hours is recommended, due to livestock that frequently cross the road at night, and decreased visibility of the narrow and winding roads through the mountain sides. The nearest airports are located in the North, in Guerrero Negro, or in the South, in Loreto.San Ignacio Lagoon (Laguna San Ignacio) is a lagoon located Mulegé Municipality in the Mexican province of Baja California Sur, 59 kilometres (37 mi) from San Ignacio, Mexico and Highway 1. It is one of the winter sanctuaries of the eastern Pacific gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus).
San Ignacio Lagoon was originally discovered by whaling captain Jared Poole, brother-in-law to captain Charles Melville Scammon. The first whaling expedition to San Ignacio Lagoon occurred in 1860 led by Scammon and six whaling vessels. Although many whaling captains would not risk losing their ships to the treacherous sand bar shoals and narrow shallow water passage into the lagoon, enough bold whaling captains did and the beginning of the near extinction of the Pacific gray whale. The lagoon is now one of the primary destinations of the Gray Whale migration.
Facts about San Ignacio Lagoon
With a local community of less than one hundred inhabitants, the lagoon residents depend upon fishing and now whale watching as their primary means of support. The lagoon stretches sixteen miles into the desert and has a maximum width of five miles. The lagoon is divided into three sections. The upper lagoon is the shallowest part and is known as the birthing area where pregnant females travel to in order to bear their young. At the middle lagoon, you find mothers traveling with their newborns, getting them ready to join the majority of the whales at the lower lagoon. At the lower lagoon, you find the majority of the cetaceans and this is where most of the social behavior occurs. Here, males and females congregate looking for mates. In addition, the newborn calves with their mothers travel the length of the lower lagoon preparing themselves for the long journey north to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic.
San Ignacio Lagoon’s significance to the world community
In 1988 Mexico established the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve to include San Ignacio Lagoon, which is Latin America’s largest wildlife sanctuary. Not only is San Ignacio lagoon a gray whale sanctuary, but it is one of only two undeveloped nursery and breeding ground in the world of the Pacific gray whale. The other is just 4 hours away in Magdalena Bay. San Ignacio lagoon is also the critical habitat for the near extinct Berrendo or prong-horned antelope and an important feeding habitat for four of the worlds seven species of sea turtles: leatherbacks, hawksbills, green turtles and Olive Ridleys (all endangered). In 1993 the United Nations declared San Ignacio lagoon a World Heritage site because of its importance to the world community.