Puerto Peñasco, Rocky Point, (population 26,100) on Sonora's northwestern Gulf of
California coast, is situated in the middle of some of Mexico's most inhospitable
territory - hot, arid and desolate. No matter. About 60 miles (97 km) from the
International Border and just 3 hours from Tucson, Arizona, Puerto Peñasco, like much of
northern Baja California, attracts legions of weekenders. - &
This shrimping village - known
as Rocky Point to many U.S. visitors - might have ended up an Arizona seaport had
it not been for the negotiating skills of the Mexican government. Following the
1846-48 territorial war between Mexico and the United States, ongoing negotiations were
conducted to determine the new border. President Antonio López de Santa Anna
did not want to give up territory that would separate mainland Mexico from the Baja
California peninsula. James Gadsen, a South Carolina railroad promoter, lobbied for
a settlement that would give the United States a southern railroad route to the Pacific
and a port on the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortés). In 1854, The Gadsen Purchase
acquired what is now the southern portions of Arizona and New Mexico for $10 million, but
Mexico retained the land bridge to Baja.
The discovery of blue shrimp in waters off Cerro de Peñasco ("rocky point")
established the village. For a time, fresh water had to be hauled from the border
town of Sonoita, 60 miles away over a sandy trail (now Mexico Highway 8). The route
was paved during World War II to provide a potential backup for U.S. West Coast shipping
interests, then feared under attack by the Japanese. Puerto Peñasco's shrimping
industry took hold in the 1950s, and the town later benefited from its easy access to
North American visitors.
Although future resort development is a possibility, Puerto Peñasco remains for now a
leisurely sun, fun and fishing destination for RVers and campers. An extreme range
between low and high tide, which can be more than 20 feet, characterizes the local waters.
This phenomenon also occurs at San Felipe on the Baja peninsula side of the gulf.
About 30 miles (48 km) north of Puerto Peñasco Mex. 8 passes near the
crater-strewn landscape of Pinacate Desert National Park; the park entrance is off of
Mexico Highway 2, west of Sonoita.