Exploration Baja & Gulf of California
For More on Kino's Baja Efforts
Click California Pioneer
For Kino's Contributions To
Jesuit Return to California & Pious Fund
Click California Builder
Return to Explorer
Exploration Baja & Gulf of California
Baja California, Gulf of California and Pacific
Accounts, Chronology, Routes and Maps
1683 to 1685
All of Kino Journeys
From Arrival in New Spain Until Pimería Alta Assignment
1681 - 1686
Numbers below route entries correspond to numbers associated with place names.
Llegada a Nueve Espana (1681) (Arrival to New Spain)
I * II * III Example: I (Cadiz) II (Veracruz) III (Puebla)
Viaje a Sinaloa (1682 - 1682) (Journeys to Sinaloa)
1 * 2 * 3 * 2 * 3
La Paz (1682 - 1683)
5 * 6 * 2 * 6 * 7 * 5 * 8 * 9
San Bruno(1683 - 1685) (includes 1st exploration across Baja)
9 * 10 * 11* 10 * 12 * 10 * 13 * 14 * 15 * 10
- - - - - - - - -
Lucha por salvar a California (1685 - 1686) (Fight to Save the Californias)
10 * 12 * 16 * 12 * 10 * 18 * 2 * 17 * 18 * 19 * 6 * 20 * 1
New map compiled by Dr. Gabriel Gomez-Padilla who is the world's leading Kino scholar.
From "Los Confines de la Cristiandad" (2001) translation by Felipe Garrido Page 158
Spanish translation of Herbert E. Bolton's "Rim of Christendom"
Kino and Baja California
Beginnings, Twelve Year Advocacy for Return & Mission Support
Ronald L. Ives
Although there were sporadic attempts to colonize Baja California from the time of Hernán Cortés (1533), none accomplished much of lasting importance until the time of the Kino-Atondo expedition of 1683-1685. This expedition, with Admiral Don Isidro Atondo y Antillón as military commander and Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J. (see n. 14) as chief missionary, was organized to make a lasting settlement on the peninsula.  It almost succeeded. Father Kino was appointed "juez eclesiastico vicario" as representative of the Bishop of Durango whose jurisdiction was a bit uncertain, and also royal cosmographer as a representative of the king whose jurisdiction was clear. Sailing from Chacala, Sinaloa, on January 17, 1683, the expedition arrived in two <28> ships in the harbor of La Paz, Baja California on April l, several stops having been made en route.
The site chosen for the settlement was in a palm grove with a well of good water nearby; it is now occupied by the modern city of La Paz. Formal possession of the country was taken on April 5 by Admiral Atondo, acting in the name of King Carlos II. Immediately thereafter, Father Kino, assisted by his companion Father Goñi, took spiritual possession of California in the name of Bishop Juan Garbabito of Guadalajara. Formalities concluded, a church and fort were begun; fields were plowed and planted; and the "Capitana" was careened to prepare for a voyage to the Río Yaqui for more supplies. The environs of La Paz were explored during this time, and the fathers began to learn the local Indian language. Initially, the outlook for the La Paz colony seemed promising.
By June trouble with Indians began to break out. There were two local tribes, the Guaicuras and Coras, who were not on the best of terms. In attempting to deal equally with both, the missionaries gained the confidence of neither. The soldiers, likewise, had their difficulties. Although willing to accept presents, the Guaicuras tended to be belligerent and intractable and were not overly impressed by the lethality of firearms - despite several adequate demonstrations. Then Zavala, the drummer boy, disappeared in the company of some Guaicuras: the Coras reported that he had been killed by them.  Shortly after, while the colony was still worried about the disappearance of Zavala, a Guaicura shot a dart at a soldier. Although it did little harm, the offending Indian was placed in the stocks and later confined in bilboes (leg-irons) on the ship. The Guaicuras protested loudly and vehemently. Early in July, a party of Guaicuras came into the settlement, making signs of peace. Fearing that this was either an attack on the colony, or an attempt to rescue their <29> imprisoned tribesman, Atondo ordered them fed. While they were eating, a cannon was fired into their midst, killing three and wounding others, who (most understandably) fled the scene. With "public relations" at a nadir, military morale low, and the supply ships long overdue, the La Paz colony was in a bad way.
On July 15, 1683, the eighty-three colonists boarded the "Almiranta" and sailed across the Gulf of California to San Lucas on Agiabampo Bay, Sonora, where they arrived six days later. The La Paz colonization attempt was definitely a failure.
Neither Atondo nor Kino were ready to give up the idea of colonizing California despite the dismal failure of the La Paz attempt. Two hot and damp months were spent at San Lucas while equipment was gathered and repaired. Supplies were collected from Atondo's capital of San Felipe, Sinaloa, and from the Jesuit missions of both Sonora and Sinaloa. During this time, Blas de Guzmán, captain of the Capitana, sailed into San Lucas with a long, sad tale of misfortunes at sea, due in large part to contrary winds and high seas. However, he also told of a certain Río Grande where he had gone ashore and found the Indians friendly. After many conferences and discussions, this became the objective of the second colonization attempt.
Kino Map of San Burno and Its People
When all equipment and supplies were readied, the expedition, again in two ships, set sail from San Lucas on September 29, 1683. With the usual fickle winds of the Gulf of California in the fall of the year, it took until October 5 to reach the mouth of the Río Grande. Many unwanted detours from the straight-line course of about 125 nautical miles had been required by the winds. Landing on 'October 6, formal possession of the land was taken with civil and religious ceremonies. Being the feast-day of San Bruno, that saint's name was applied to the area. Consequently, the Río Grande of Guzmán's original report became and remains today the Arroyo de San Bruno. Good water was found about a league up the arroyo; friendly contacts were immediately made with local Indians. Soon a mission and fort were constructed on a low mesa northeast of the arroyo about two miles inland from the river's mouth. The ruins are still visible. While this work was in progress, the missionaries preached to the Indians, and the Capitana was readied for a voyage to Yaqui to get supplies, which included "eighteen pack mules and two dozen wrought-iron mule shoes, with their nails and a thousand nails extra." That voyage of about ninety nautical miles each way was quick and successful. <30>
By December 1 of 1683, the San Bruno settlement was firmly established, and extensive exploration of the surrounding lands began. Several journeys were made up and down the coastal plain, reaching south to the area later known as Loreto. In these explorations, the plain of Londó inland from San Bruno was found, and near a good water hole crops were planted there. The site called San Isidro, later became the site of San Juan Londó, an important visita of Loreto. The facade of the ruined mission building still stood in 1968. Initially, the high mountain barrier of the Sierra La Giganta prevented travel to the west. Eventually passes were discovered and soldiers and missionaries crossed the range with much labor. They reached the great plateau to the west - a relatively flat, slightly dissected area considerably larger than the state of Rhode Island. More than 1,000 feet above sea level, this plateau has a number of shallow (temporary) lakes on the surface. These were full in 1684 as plainly stated in Father Kino's descriptions. With strenuous and extensive field work, aided by Indian friends. Father Kino eventually found a pass by which a mounted expedition could cross the Sierra de la Giganta. He learned of a river on the far west side that flowed west to the South Sea (Pacific Ocean). Soon, Kino and Atondo made plans for an' expedition to that area.
The summer of 1684 was spent in preaching to the Indians, tending crops that didn't grow very well, improving the fort and. church at San Bruno, constructing fortifications and guard quarters at San Isidro, and gathering supplies and equipment for the planned trip to the shore of the South Sea. The supply ships were late, as usual, and fear of starvation at San Bruno was growing very real. Late in the summer, the Almiranta (officially known as the San José) returned to San Bruno, bringing badly needed supplies and twenty additional men, who were ill-trained and poorly equipped. On board was Father Juan Bautista Copart, S.J., a Belgian missionary who had served in the Tarahumara. On August 15, shorty after the arrival of the Almiranta, Father Kino made his final vows before Father Copart. 
After discharging its cargo, the Almiranta was dispatched to Yaqui for more supplies. It made four round-trip voyages in rapid succession, bringing to San Bruno supplies, horses, mules, shoe iron, and the myriad other items needed to keep the isolated colony going. The Almiranta was <31> badly in need of repairs after these voyages, so it was sent to Matanchel, a former seaport about three miles east of modern San Blas. Nayarit. On the return to the mainland it carried numerous reports for the viceroy and Father Copart as a passenger. While the ship was being refitted at Matanchel, Captain Guzmán went overland to Guadalajara to get more supplies and some much wanted pearl-divers. Alonso de Zavallos, President of the Audiencia of Guadalajara, furnished the supplies promptly, but had some difficulty finding pearl-divers. Four were eventually located, and in describing them Zavallos wrote "they will set forth within two or three days, for I have kept them in jail in this city in order that they might not flee: they will be escorted to Matanchel under careful guard and custody ... " By March 28, 1685, the ship had returned to San Bruno and brought the much needed supplies together with the apparently unwilling pearl-divers.
While the shipyard at Matanchel was busy with repair work, the colony at San Bruno was also busy. Some of the personnel were at San Isidro where they were trying to raise food crops in poorly watered fields. Many others were away on the long-planned expedition to the coast of the South Sea. Still others were busy with the "house-keeping" tasks at the San Bruno fort and settlement.
Route Kino-Atondo Party Across Baja California
First European Crossing
December 1684 - January 1685
The expedition to the South Sea was one of the major explorations in the history of Baja California. Personnel included Admiral Atondo, Father Kino, Dr. Castro (the surgeon), twenty-nine soldiers, two muleteers, and nine Christian Indians from the mainland. A varying number of California Indians accompanied to act as guides. The cavalcade included five horses in metal armor, thirty-two horses with bullhide "cueras" (leather armor), thirty pack mules loaded with provisions, two mules ridden by the arrieros, and twenty-two relay animals.
Leaving San Isidro on December 15, 1684, the party travelled northwest to the foot of the pass previously discovered by Father Kino. Here, after much labor spent in improving the trail, they climbed westward to the summit of the Sierra La Giganta, reaching the far side near modern Canípole. Travelling southwest, they came to a canyon and descended into it. This was the Arroyo Comondú in which some years later old mission San José de Comondú was founded. Travelling northwest again, with much labor, they came to the main canyon, then called the Cadegomó and now the Arroyo La Purísima. Down this canyon they rode, mostly westward, struggling over loose boulders and through dense growths of reeds. En route they came to an excellent water <32> hole which they called Ojo de Agua. It is still there and bearing the same name and delivering the same dependable flow. Below and to the west of Ojo de Agua, the party entered the country of the Guimes who tried to turn the Spaniards back. The Indians from San Bruno deserted the party at this point in fear. But Father Kino not only eventually pacified the Guimes, he enlisted their help as guides. Struggling through two more leagues in a maze of boulders and reeds, they emerged at a place they named "Noche Buena" because it was Christmas Eve. It was only a short distance upstream from modern San Isidro. Christmas Day was spent in searching out a better trail, but none was found. More struggles on the day after Christmas brought them into more passable country, and that night they camped at a place they called San Estevan. This was near modern La Purísima. On the 27th, while the main expedition rested and the farriers retreaded the pack and saddle animals, Father Kino with two soldiers climbed a nearby peak to survey the terrain ahead. This they called El Sombrerete "because it had the shape of a sombrero." Today it is known as El Pilón. It is a high butte separated from the main Comondú upland by faulting and erosion. From this summit Father Kino hoped to see the Pacific ocean, but his observations were made uncertain by the fog and haze common in the area during the winter season.
Many of the tired animals were left under guard at San Estevan where the pasture was good and water was plentiful. A smaller party travelled down the canyon to the west by easy stages. eventually coming to the place where the Río Cadegomó joined another river coming in from the northeast. This was named the Río Santiago, now the modern Arroyo San Gregorio. Crossing both rivers, the expedition travelled westward along the north shore of the great embayment at their combined mouths and reached the shore of the Pacific Ocean, which they called the South Sea. This completed the first recorded crossing by Europeans of the peninsula of Baja California. Along the shore, they met some Indians, who were at first timid but eventually accepted gifts. Father Kino especially noted the profusion of shells along the beaches. specifically including the blue abalone, which he later used as biological tracers to demonstrate the possibility of a land passage from California, then thought by many to be an island, to the mainland of Mexico. 
Returning to the bay at the combined mouths of the rivers, Atondo wrote a careful description of the harbor on January 1, 1685. and named it La Bahía de Año Nuevo.  Today it is known as the Laguna de San <33> Gregorio. After measuring the latitude of the mouth of the estuary which he found to be twenty-five and a half degrees, Father Kino with the rest of the party began the return journey over the outgoing route.  Most of the trip was uneventful, but one of the armored horses fell into the Río Cadegomó and drowned; several other horses succumbed to exhaustion. The explorers reached San Bruno on January 13, 1685. 
For More Expedition Detail
"Kino's Route Across Baja California"
Ronald L. Ives
For article, click Kino Across Baja
Kino Sails To The Seris
June - August 1685
Not long after their return, Atondo, who was disappointed at not reaching Magdalena Bay, some distance south of Bahía de Año Nuevo, went on another exploring expedition, accompanied this time by Father Goñi who had become expert in the Edu language, spoken to the south of San Bruno.  Journeying south along the east shore of the peninsula, <34> they searched for a pass over the Sierra La Giganta but found none. Although they travelled roughly 100 miles south of San Bruno. they found no way over the mountains and eventually turned back to San Bruno where they arrived on March 6, 1685.
Slightly more than two weeks later, the Capitana arrived at the isolated outpost, bringing badly needed supplies and the long hoped for pearl-divers. With its repeated crop failures. the colony was in a bad way. Several soldiers had died of scurvy, and many more were sick. At one roll call, when sixty-nine soldiers should have reported, only fifteen appeared. Thirty-nine were too sick to appear, and four were reported dead. After a long conference, it was decided to abandon San Bruno, at least temporarily. The sick were to be taken to the Yaqui missions for care. Admiral Atondo and Father Goñi were to take some of the able bodied men in the "Balandra" to hunt for pearls. Captain Guzman and Father Kino were to sail in the Capitana to look for a better mission site. On May 8, 1685, San Bruno was abandoned. 
In accord with previous plans, the sick were taken to the Yaqui missions on the mainland where most of them recovered. Admiral Atondo and Father Goñi hunted for pearls with little success - the total catch being "two ounces and two drachms." Captain Guzman and Father Kino explored the upper gulf visiting, among other places, Tiburon Island, then and now the home of the Seri people. In September, 1685, the two ships rejoined and sailed for Matanchel; both were badly in need of supplies. Promptly, Father Kino went to Guadalajara to arrange for further missionary efforts in California, and soon Admiral Atondo journeyed inland for the same purpose. Both achieved apparent success. Returning to Matanchel, the principals prepared for further missionary exploration, but suddenly they were diverted by orders from the viceroy, who dispatched them to sea to intercept the Manila galleon and warn it of pirates along the coast.
Kino Sails To Protect
Manila Galleon From Pirates
And Back to Mexico City
December 1685 - March 1686
Leaving Matanchel on November 29, they intercepted the galleon a day later. Sailing out of sight of land, they convoyed the galleon to Acapulco, successfully evading the pirates, who were ashore raiding coastal settlements for provisions.  After this successful rescue, Kino and Atondo went to Mexico City where further plans for California were made. The needed funds were promised and seemed available. Then, troubles began. A revolt was threatening in Nueva Vizcaya which would require funds and soldiers. Spain urgently needed half a million pesos from Mexico to help pay a French indemnity. So the funds for California <35> were no longer available, and the carefully planned enterprise ground to a halt. No more efforts to colonize California were made for more than a decade. Father Kino was assigned to Sonora where he labored effectively, for the rest of his productive life. Admiral Atondo disappears from the field of our interest.
Largest Kino Statue
Founding Father of The Californias
Tijuana, Baja California
Although the Kino-Atondo expeditions did not achieve their planned objective - the founding of a permanent settlement in California - the work done by the party was of inestimable value to later workers there. Friendly relations were established with several tribes on the eastern side of Baja California; the vocabularies of the Cochimí language prepared by Father Kino and of the Monqui language prepared by Father Copart were of inestimable value to those who came later to the barren peninsula. The maps prepared by Father Kino and his developing ideas regarding an overland passage from the mainland of Mexico to California influenced geographical thinking and exploration plans for more than three-quarters of a century.  Thus, although the expedition might be rated a failure, it actually laid the foundations for later missionary successes and led to the eventual settlement of the California's, both Alta and Baja.
For slightly more than a decade the California mission field was entirely deserted because no funds or workers were available. The civil authorities had correctly determined that California, as then known, could not produce enough pearls, metals, or agricultural products to pay for its occupation. During this time Father Kino, who had now been assigned to the Pimería Alta, had founded several missions which became relatively prosperous. The surplus products of these missions, according to Father Kino's reasoning, could be used to help the conversion of California. In 1691, by order of the Father Provincial, Ambrosio Oddón, Father Juan María Salvatierra was sent from his mission at Chinipas to make an inspection of Pimería Alta where Father Kino was <36> working. During their travels together Father Kino "sold" Father Salvatierra on the need for reestablishing the California missionary effort, and thenceforth, despite years of apparently fruitless endeavors, both worked toward that end. In late 1696 and early 1697 plans were made for another California expedition to be financed by private gifts, as no funds were available from the royal treasury. Eventually these private gifts became the famous Pious Fund, which apparently started with the donation of one peso, but grew until it became the major support of the California missions.
At this time Kino and Salvatierra were joined by Father Juan de Ugarte, S.J., of whom we shall hear much more later. Soon, an agreement was worked out with the viceroy by which, so long as no public funds were spent, the Jesuits could make another attempt to colonize California, even to the extent of hiring their own soldiers (provided the Jesuits met the payroll). This agreement with only very minor changes prevailed throughout the Jesuit occupation of California, and, in general, worked very well. This lasting rapport between the Jesuits and the military may stem, in part, from the early military experience of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order.
The viceroy's permission and agreement were dated February 5, 1697. The next day Father Salvatierra started for the west coast. En route he visited Father Juan Bautista Copart to obtain the information which he had collected during the Kino-Atondo expedition of the previous decade and the grammars of the Indian languages he so carefully prepared. While awaiting the arrival of ships, supplies, and Father Kino on the Sinaloa coast, Father Salvatierra made a quick trip inland to Chinipas, where he became involved in a minor Indian uprising. Returning to the west coast, he made contact with the ships, gathered supplies, recruited soldiers, and finally sailed from Yaqui on October 10. Father Kino, however, was not with him. Because of unsettled conditions in Sonora, he was ordered to remain there because his presence was" considered to be worth a thousand soldiers." In his place, another hard working and successful missionary, Father Francisco Maria Piccolo, S.J., was chosen.  <37>
The tiny expedition suffered the customary problems in attempting to cross the Gulf. Adverse winds blew the ships aground and created repeated delays. Finally, however, the miniscule fleet reached the eastern shore of the peninsula and undertook some limited coastal exploration. They visited the ruined site of Kino's mission San Bruno and then decided on going ashore at the Bay of San Dionisio, where they were greeted by Indians who had known Kino and Atondo. On October 19, 1697, they started clearing the mesa; animals and supplies were unloaded and a corral was built. Even an Indian attack was repulsed. Chief Dionisius, who was suffering from an apparent cancer, was instructed and baptized. Work was begun on the mission and camp of Loreto, which would later become the military and mission center of Baja California.
Missions of Baja California
1697 - 1769
[Thereafter] California had experienced slow settlement, largely by Jesuit missionaries and the few soldiers who accompanied them. Settlement began in the southern part of the peninsula, now the State of Baja California Sur, and very slowly over the next three quarters of a century crept northward into what is now the State of California. Missionary activities in the arid and sterile peninsula of Baja California were constantly inhibited by lack of missionaries and soldiers, insufficient funds, shortages of all sorts of supplies and manufactured goods, and very serious transportation difficulties inherent to the use of sailing ships in an area of undependable or contrary winds. These conditions led Father Johann Jakob Baegert, S.J., of mission San Luis Gonzaga to comment that California ·"of all the countries of the globe is one of the poorest. "
Because of the aridity and sterility of the peninsula of Baja California, the missions there were never economically self-sufficient and help from "outside" was needed during the entire mission period. Each mission had a garden which produced some fruit and vegetables, and a few also produced grain in good years. The area of the garden was determined by the amount of level land near the mission; the output of the garden was limited by the amount of irrigation water available. At some of the missions there was considerable crop" shrinkage" because of the "'taking ways" of the natives, who apparently learned what was good to eat rather rapidly, but assimilated the commandments much more slowly. The missions also had herds of livestock - horses, mules, cattle, sheep <26 photo> <27> and goats - which supplied some of the needed meat, leather, and wool. Because of poor forage and native depredations these herds were not as productive in Baja California as similar herds were in Sonora. Deficiencies of meat and grain were normally made up by generous donations from the relatively prosperous missions of Sonora.  Manufactured goods and comestibles not available from Sonora, such as chocolate, were purchased in Mexico and shipped by land and sea to Baja California. Payment for these goods was usually made through the Pious Fund, although few royal grants assisted in their shipping.  Transportation costs of goods purchased in Mexico commonly exceeded the purchase price, and many cargoes destined for the missions were lost at sea or spoiled in transit. In consequence, Baja California prices were more than double those on the mainland.
Ronald L. Ives
"José Velásquez: Saga of a Borderland Soldier"
To Download and print entire article
by Ronald L. Ives,
Click Kino & Baja
For More Expedition Detail
"Kino's Route Across Baja California"
Ronald L. Ives
For article, click Kino Across Baja
For More on Kino's Baja Efforts
Click California Pioneer
For Kino's Advocacy and Material Support of
The Jesuit Return to Califorina
Click Calfornia Builder
For Kino's Advocacy to Salvatierra
Click Tumacacori National Historical Park
Part of Kino's 1685 Map
Kino's Entradas Beyond The Giantess
November - December 1683
Herbert E. Bolton
The San Bruno settlement had been founded. The formal act of taking possession of the province of San Andrés on November 30 by Atondo for the Crown in the name of Carlos Segundo and by Kino for the Church in the name of Bishop Juan, put a period to this paragraph in the history of "the largest island in the world." The Admiral and the Rector were now free to undertake the more ambitious exploration into the interior which for many days they had been planning.
They sallied forth on December 1. For this longer journey they had more elaborate equipment than for the "Primera Entrada." Besides the Admiral and Kino, head and soul of the enterprise, there were twenty-five soldiers, six Indians from Mayo, six of the Edu nation, Dionisio's people, and six Didius, Leopoldo's men. There were fourteen horses, five of them armor-covered and fierce-looking, and six pack mules carrying provisions for a twelve days' journey. Camp was left in charge of Captain Guzman and Father Goñi. On the Capitana at Coronados Island remained Alférez Lascano with ten sailors and deck hands.
The knights rode out, followed by the footmen. Three leagues northwestward took them to the fine water and pastures of San Isidro. This place, called Londó by the Edues and Cathemeneol by the Didius, was the spot where later was built the mission of San Juan Londó, whose picturesque ruins are still well preserved. Here they camped and were visited by natives. Five of them, all Didius, joined the expedition. They must have pronounceable names, so Kino called them Vicente, Santiago, Juan, Andres, and Simón.
In the "Primera Entrada" Kino and Atondo had continued northwest up the level valley that led to the plains of San Pablo. [Editor Note: Kino called the San Pablo journey made in November 1683 the "Primera Entrada." San Pablo is located six leagues northwest of San Bruno]. This time the adventurers set for themselves a far more difficult task. They planned now to swing west and scale the precipitous sierra that hid from the narrow coast plain the mysterious region that lay beyond land of giants the natives said. Both the giants and the sierra gave zest to the exploit.
The way up the lofty wall of rock, that was the first question! The Indians said they could answer it. Guided by the five Didius, Atondo went four leagues to a fine spring which they named San Francisco Xavier, for it was the eve of the Feast of St. Francis. On the way the Indians gathered for the explorers luscious pitahayas, which were still in season there. The water at San Xavier was worthy of comment in that arid land, for it actually flowed. "We were very much pleased," wrote Kino, "to see the first running stream in this California, for this water hole" - he called it an "aguaje -" had this quantity of water. We gave rewards and presents to the Indians who showed it to us"- and well they might, for such a rarity -"and they as well as we were very much pleased. We noticed and learned that many Indians lived here for some months of the year although there were none now. Kino saw in this fine water supply another mission site. Here at San Xavier siesta was taken, camp made for the night, and great smoke sent up to let the people at the settlement know of their safe arrival. The place was near two conspicuous peaks which were in plain view from San Bruno, and indeed, from fifteen leagues out at sea. To dedicate the fine site to the spiritual conquest a large cross was erected.
The mountain wall was now towering close ahead, and in the afternoon five men went forward to find a trail between the two peaks for the next day's march. At night the scouts returned. After having advanced two leagues they had found water holes and a large carrizal or reed marsh, but they had encountered, just beyond, a mountain cliff so steep that horses and mules could not ascend. If Atondo could not go straight ahead he might go around. So next morning he approached the range by a different route. But it was of no use. After ascending the lower slopes for some two leagues, the same distance the explorers had covered, they reached cliffs and crags which the animals could not pass. The prospect was discouraging.
Scouts were again sent out, now in two parties, Contreras with five men and Itamarra with four. Contreras sent back a note to report that the ascent was impossible for horses and difficult for men. But the climb was worth it, for there, a league above the horsemen, beautiful plain lay before them. It was now evident that the horses must be left below. This was tough on a race of men born to the saddle. But there was no help for it. So Atondo sent food up to the scouts, telling them to remain over night on the mountain top. He would follow on foot.
Next morning they made the plunge. Leaving the horses and mules in charge of six men, the rest set forth. Each one carried, besides his weapons, his own pack of supplies for three days. Kino's youthful prayer for a "difficult mission" was being answered. And what better sport could he wish? Twenty-nine men, besides five heathen Indians, made the start. For a league they scrambled like flies up the face of the bare mountain wall of living rock; in places even the nimble Indians had to crawl on all fours. Three or four spots, called the "Passes of Santa Barbara," were so bad that it was necessary "to haul up by a lariat not only the munitions and provisions, but also the Admiral and others." I cannot believe that Kino was one of them. Each reader will have to rely on his own imagination for the picture presented by Atondo as he dangled from the cliffs.
The start had been early. The winter sun had barely showed its face when the puffing band reached the top. From a miraculous occurrence of the day before, the spot where they gained the summit was called Santa Cruz. The scouts had thrown down a dry cardón tree, a species of tall, straight cactus which flourishes there in veritable forests. "When it fell on the ground a limb was so imbedded that with the trunk it formed a cross, as if it had been made on purpose with the hands, and it was set up and venerated and left in that position."
It was now that the rugged sierra was given the name by which it still is known. "Because it is so very high," Kino writes, "for at sunset it can be seen from Hiaqui, and likewise because a few days ago some persons said and believed that in these lands of the Noys there were giants, we called the range La Giganta." And La Giganta it still is both in fact and in name. The Giantess rises six thousand feet almost sheer out of the Gulf.
The view was worth the climb. The scouts had not exaggerated. Facing westward from Santa Cruz the exhilarated explorers looked out on the "beautiful and most pleasing plains," of which Contreras had told. These llanos, too, already had a name, for, says Kino, "since yesterday, because they were discovered on the day of the glorious Cherubim, they have been called the Gift of San Francisco Xavier" Dádiva de San Francisco Xavier.
Westward Ho! They were now in the land of the Noys, country of the giants. ….
But Kino was curious to know what was beyond the mountains over which the natives had scampered. The result was a division of the party. Atondo decided to camp here beside the refreshing lake, while the strongest men went forward, equipped for two days' travel, one going and one returning. Kino was one of the strongest, both in heart and limb. …
Three of the "strongest," Kino, Itamarra, and Bohórques, scaled a high cliff, and from it they saw, both with and without a telescope, "another pretty lake, and a large plain, and many other hills, sierras, and plains, stretching more than twenty leagues toward the north." Descending from the cliff and traveling northwest over the country at which they had gazed, all took siesta at the lake, "and drank from its most beautiful and crystalline water in the shade of some large fig trees and of a cliff." These fig trees were evidently tunas. The lake was five leagues northwest of the camp where Atondo had been left to sleep and rest. It was northeast of and not far from the present Comondú. …
Kino and Atondo now prepared reports and wrote letters to their friends. Kino drew a plan of the fort, church, and barracks, and made map of California, showing the settlements at La Paz and San Bruno, and all the principal explorations thus far accomplished. It bears the date December 21, 1683. The original is still preserved and is one of the world's cartographical treasures.
The text set out above is an excerpt from Bolton's account.
For the entire Text of Chapter 8 - Farther Afleld
and its sections: The Face of the Giantess; The Gift of San Xavier;
The Strong Go Forward and A Pass Through the Sierra.
Click Farther Afield
Dr. Herbert E. Bolton
Chapter 8: Farther Afield
Rim Of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino - Pacific Coast Pioneer
First Across The Peninsula
December 1684 - January 1685
Herbert E. Bolton
The expedition was made as planned, in spite of all handicaps and doubts. On December 14 the Almiranta weighed anchor and sailed for Mexico. On the same day Atondo and Kino rode to San Isidro, the rendezvous where men, provisions, horses, and mules were assembled. Next day the start was made.
It was an interesting company that marched northward that mid December day. Besides the Admiral, Father Kino, and Dr. Castro the surgeon, there were twenty-nine soldiers, two muleteers, and nine Christian Indians from the mainland, a total of forty-three persons. In addition there was a following of California natives to serve as guides. Kino with his astronomical instruments was prepared for his duty as cosmógrafo. He and Contreras were the principal interpreters. The soldiers wore cueras, or leather jackets - marvelous armor of bull hide. Each carried a shield, arquebus, a pound of powder, a hundred bullets, a hundred slugs and a calabash for a drinking cup - the cumbrous outfit of which the Admiral had complained.
There were five armored horses led "de diestro," in good medieval style, for Atondo had brought from San Lucas that many suits; of metal horse armor. There were thirty-two light-armored mounts in bull hide cueras, thirty pack mules loaded with provisions, two mules ridden by the arrieros, and twenty-two relay animals, a total of ninety-one mounts and sumpters. No wonder the natives fled when they saw such a cavalcade coming. In the packs there was a goodly supply of little wares, especially cowhide moccasins, called catles or cacles, to serve as presents for the Indians. |183|
As they passed through each village Kino and Atondo made a distribution of these gewgaws, and the guides were encouraged to broadcast a story of Spanish generosity. Nearly every day after camp was made, a squad of soldiers and Indian laborers were sent ahead to explore the road for the next day's march. Frequently the going was so bad that these pioneers had to spend hours, and sometimes an entire day, in opening a trail, cutting down trees, prying rocks out of the way with crowbars, filling holes, or leveling steep pitches. Often Kino, accompanied by two or more soldiers, climbed some commanding peak, in order with his telescope to learn the nature of the country, look for smokes of Indian villages, and prospect for signs of precious metals. As they neared the western side of the Peninsula the chief aim of these observations was to catch a glimpse of the majestic South Sea.
One of the greatest difficulties of the journey was that of the horses' feet. The Admiral's fears were justified. The road was rough and terribly stony, and the animals often went lame. Horseshoeing was an almost daily business, and more than once a whole day was spent in camp to rest the animals and repair their shoes. More than one poor mount played out and was abandoned by the wayside as food for the hungry natives, who left nothing for crows or buzzards. The caballos did their part in the expedition. Timid though they were, the Indians several times disputed the passage of the Spaniards, as Moraza had feared they would do, but with presents and "good talk" they were won over, and they performed incalculable service as guides. Frequently the Spaniards were followed by troops of natives from one village to the next. The women especially were friendly, and sometimes made trouble for the commander.
The itinerary and the incidents of the journey can merely be summarized here. Only the full diary which was kept can do the adventure justice. And only one who has retraced the expedition can read |184| the historic journal with full measure of understanding. Till the explorers had crossed the Sierra Giganta they followed essentially the trail taken by Kino and Contreras the year before - when young Eusebio trotted behind and the little black crow was mascot.
Four days after leaving San Bruno the cavalcade arrived at Santo Tomas, the arroyo by which Kino and Contreras had crossed the mountains. With the heavy pack train the traverse now was a more difficult undertaking than it had been before, and Atondo halted a day to prepare the road. Adjutant Chillerón with ten soldiers and four Sinaloa Indians performed the back-breaking task. Equipped with picks and axes, they went ahead and spent the day cutting trees, removing rocks, and filling bad holes. When they returned in the evening they were a tired band. That night Chief Leopolda came to camp. Atondo gave him presents, and Kino urged him to send messages ahead, telling his people of Spanish friendship and especially of generous presents. Leopolda complied and thus rendered useful service. Moraza had misjudged him.
Early next morning the explorers sallied forth up the steep. In spite of all the road building of the day before, the loaded pack animals had a hard pull, "and although each soldier went up on foot assisting a mule, some of the animals did not fail to fall down." La Cuesta Trabajosa - the difficult climb - they very appropriately named this acclivity. Six toilsome leagues were covered that day, to an arroyo which the natives called Comondé. It was the Comondú, an affluent of the present Arroyo Purísima. Camp was in the vicinity of San Nicolás, the village visited by Kino and Contreras the year before, for thus far they were on their former trail. Among the natives familiar faces were seen, and friendly smiles of recognition.
Three grueling days were now spent descending this arroyo to the forks of the Purísima. Whoever has been in that rough country will not find this difficult to believe. For two of these days the camp was followed by friendly Didius, including "five pretty young women" brought by the rascal Leopoldo, who thus raised a new problem of discipline for Atondo. It was the Admiral who thus described the damsels. On the subject Kino was discreetly silent. Camps were made at Santo  Domingo, Las Higueras (still on the map in the same vicinity) and La Thebaida - the Theban Desert. On this stretch they passed the canyon site of the later founded mission of Old Comondú, Here in this desolation began the territory of the Gümes , thirty of whom were met and given presents. In return their chief gave Atondo "a little toque of nacre which they use to bind up their hair." The Admiral probably did not wear it.
A pleasing sight now met their eyes. Two leagues down the arroyo on the third day took the explorers to "some springs of water which form a river. According to a report which the natives gave us, although it has not rained in fourteen months, it carries so much water that there is more than enough to run a mill." Man and beast alike now drank to satiety. The place was the one still called Ojo de Agua the spring - at the forks of Arroyo de la Purísima. It is an unmistakable landmark in that unslaked desert, and an eternal joy to the thirsty.
Here Atondo's route swung sharply southward, down the river, and the country became rougher than before. Even yet no wagon road traverses it, and when in 1932 I told my local guide where I was bound, he looked dubious and shook his head. Three leagues farther on, fifty-four Gümes appeared on the trail and tried to turn the Spaniards back. The soldiers bristled, but Kino came to the fore. He had weapons more powerful than sword or blunderbuss. "With the good words which were spoken to them by the father superior ... and by showing them catles and other wares" they were soon won over. …
Now for the climax of the adventure! Now for the South Sea!
Father Eusebio never forgot those blue shells. Years later they became a central factor in another drama in which he played the leading part. "
The text set out above is an excerpt from Bolton's account.
For the entire Text of Chapter 11 - First Across The Peninsula
and its sections: River of San Tomas and The South Sea
First Across The Peninsula
Dr. Herbert E. Bolton
"Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino - Pacific Coast Pioneer"
Chapter 11: First Across The Peninsula
pages 182 - 190
Kino's Route Across Baja California
Ronald L. Ives
The first recorded crossing of Baja California, which took place in 1684-85, was by a Spanish exploring party under the direction of Don Isidro Atondo y Antillón. One of the members of this party, and one to whom most of its success can be attributed was Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S. J. Through the use of historical documents and maps, most of which are a result of Kino's efforts, it has been possible to trace the route of the party more accurately than had formerly been the case. Much of the recent success can be attributed to exploration and description by geologists and botanists and to the fact that maps of Baja California have been greatly improved by aerial photography.
The first recorded crossing of peninsular California, accomplished in the winter of 1684-1685 by a Spanish party led by Don Isidro Atondo y Antillón, became a successful exploration, rather than another "blundering through the wilderness," largely because of the inclusion in the party of a trained cosmographer, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S. J. The major part of our knowledge of this early and important exploration comes from the diaries and maps so carefully prepared by Father Kino, although confirmatory evidence is found in the Atondo diaries. parts of which were apparently written by, or in collaboration with, Father Kino.
Many of the maps and documents concerning this expedition were discovered by the late Herbert E. Bolton, who also collected, indexed, and summarized all material concerning it (Bolton 1936: 182-90). In company with his son Herbert E. Bolton, Jr., Dr. Bolton made extensive field studies in Baja California, incontrovertibly demonstrating the accuracy of the original accounts and recovering many of the pertinent ancient sites.
Despite the great competence of the Bolton investigation, the route of the Atondo-Kino expedition across Baja California is still somewhat of a mystery to many historians. Not only is Baja California poorly known and inadequately mapped, but many place names have changed, and the general environment, particularly at the time of Bolton's  investigation in 1934, was little understood.
Keenly aware of these unavoidable deficiencies in Bolton's work, the late Peter M. Dunne. S.J. made extensive studies of the Baja California environment, which he summarized as the first chapter in his work "Black Robes in Lower California" (Dunne 1952: 1-25). Since the writing of Father Dunne's summary, maps of Baja California have been very greatly improved (Gerhard and Gulick 1958), largely by use of aerial photography; the geology of the peninsula has been investigated with some thoroughness (Beal 1948), and an exhaustive report on the flora of the arid tongue of land has become available (Shreve 1951) .
As a result of these multiple advances, it is now possible to describe Kino's route across Baja California in terms of modern available maps, and to identify the various campsites in terms of modern names with some hope of correctness. The study to be reported here made use not only of published data sources, but also of field checking, both on the ground, and by means of several flights over the areas concerned.
The major part of the Kino-Atondo itinerary across Baja California is shown on Kino's map "Delineatio Nova et Vora Partis Mexici, cum Australi Parte Insulae Californiae -- " (Scherer 1703: Bolton 1936: 192), a pertinent section of which comprises Fig. 1. Note that the draftsmanship of this map is not Kino's, the original having been redrawn, prior to 1703, for purposes of publication. perhaps by the engraver.
The expedition travelled from San Bruno, on the present arroyo San Bruno, to a point near the present Punta San Juanico, on the Pacific coast. crossing some of the most difficult terrain in North America.
To view and download rest of the article "Kino's Route Across Baja California"
Kino Across Baja
Ronald L. Ives
Kino's Route Across Baja California
Kiva April 1961
Return to Main Page: Explorer
To Site Index, Search and Navigation & Printing Tips
To Main Pages