Del Carmen Island is located in the Gulf of California, directly East of the City of Loreto, Baja California Sur. The island is now an uninhabited conservation area for wildlife, comprising 37,000 acres of land. Since 1996 is a private natural reserve managed by “Organización Vida Silvestre A.C.” and the “Salinas del Pacifico” company (owners of the island), which jointly  protect and conserve the flora and fauna. The island measures 16.8 miles long and 5.6 miles wide.

This elongated shaped island is situated and separated from the peninsular mainland by the Loreto sea channel, with water depths of 1,200 feet toward the deeper North end of  the channel.  Its geology is composed of Miocene volcanic rocks overlain by Miocene-Pliocene marine rocks.

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The human history of the island revolves mainly around its salt deposits located on the northern end of the island, in the area called Bahía Salinas. For many decades a commercial salt operation included houses for the staff, as well as a school, cemetery, sports facilities, workshops, warehouses, a fuel and oil facility, and a church. The salt mine concluded its operations in 1984.

Richard Jackson ©

Richard Jackson ©

On this island, as well as on Montserrat Island, various paleontological, archaeological, and historical sites offer evidence of the island’s past habitats,

Richard Jackson ©

Richard Jackson ©

 

The biological exploration of the Baja peninsula and the Gulf of California started in the mid-19th century, in 1841; when plant collections were made by I.G. Voznesenskii,  a collector for the Zoological Museum of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at  Saint Petersburg.

He was aboard the ship Naslendnik Aleksandr and landed on Del Carmen Island on Christmas Day. Voznesenskii was able to visit Loreto, Puerto Escondido, and other nearby sites.

Before leaving the Gulf on February 1842, Voznesenskii had collected 360 plant specimens representing 113 species. This collection is now at the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences, in Leningrad.

The ship Naslendnik Aleksandr came during that era approximately every three years, because of the Russian colony at Sitka Alaska, that depended on salt purchased at Del Carmen Island, for the preservation of furs.

 

In 1995, the Mexican company Salinas del Pacífico introduced Baja California’s subspecies of the desert Bighorn sheep to Del Carmen, where it continues to thrive. The Island’s varying habitats also support a wide variety of bird life. In the predominant scrub desert, the most common bird sightings include black-throated sparrows (A. bilineata), house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus), white-winged doves (Zenaida asiatica), ash-throated flycatchers (Myarchus cynerascens), and ladder-backed and gila woodpeckers (Picoides scalaris and Melanerpes uropygialis).

Richard Jackson ©

Richard Jackson ©