Island of California

The Island of California (Spanish: Isla de California) refers to a long-held European misconception, dating from the 16th century, that the Baja California Peninsula was not part of mainland North America but rather a large island (spelled on early maps as "Cali Fornia") separated from the continent by a strait now known as the Gulf of California.

Map of California, circa 1650; restored. The compass rose in the center of the map marks the approximate location of the modern US-Mexico border, south of San Diego.
The "Island of California", on a 1650 map by Nicolas Sanson
A satellite view of the Baja California peninsula and the Gulf of California

One of the most famous cartographic errors in history, it was propagated on many maps during the 17th and 18th centuries, despite contradictory evidence from various explorers. The legend was initially infused with the idea that California was a terrestrial paradise, like the Garden of Eden or Atlantis.


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