Isla Smith

Kayaking the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax
  |  Gorp.com

The cry of red-beaked oystercatchers greets kayakers arriving at Isla Smith, at mile 8. Two small inlets are found on Smith's southwest side. The first leads deep into a mangrove swamp. The area is frequently inundated and very buggy, but worth a quick detour to see the many flatfish and rays that blanket the inlet's silt bottom. The second inlet is fairly hidden, but worth the search: Inside one finds a mysterioous lagoon that winds far enough eastward to almost pinch off the southern part of Smith. By landing on the scrubby dunes at the back of the green lagoon and walking only a few yards, one comes to the island's eastern shore and the clearer blue waters of the open Cortez. At high tide, a reversing waterfall flows over the dune spit.

Camping is possible in this area (being careful for the tides, of course, as well as rattlesnakes) or at several smaller, gravel-sand landings farther down Smith's eastern side. Snorkeling is also good here, and at the very southeastern point of Smith, at mile 10, there is a large frigate-bird roosting site. The return crossing of three miles brings one to the southeastern tip of Ventana, at mile 13. Here one discovers the meaning of the island's name: Ventana,"Window." A large rock archway forms a natural peephole. There are rocky landing spots before and after the arch. This is a great whalewatching and snorkeling spot.

If winds are strong, one can continue following the southern shore of Ventana, resuming the main shore in just over three miles and retracing the route back along Punta Arena and into the inner bay, finishing the route at mile 18.5.

Alternatively, in calm weather, one can paddle in the direction of Isla Cabeza de Caballo (Horsehead). A reef is found midway between Ventana and Isla Cabeza de Caballo; the rocky pinnacles are usually visible just above the water. A wreck lies 20 feet from the southeastern pinnacle, in water 10-50 feet deep, according to Walt Peterson in his Baja Adventure Book. There is good snorkeling off the northern point of Cabeza de Caballo, as well as good fishing off the western shore. The small Islas Los Gemelitos, "Little Twins," are visible one mile south. A five-mile crossing back to Bahma de Los Angeles finishes the route at mile 20.

Finishing the Loop
From sea, the town is best distinguished by looking for the greener vegetation against the mountainous backdrop; this marks the town's center. As one enters the inner bay, the pink buildings with palapas (Guillermo's) and the arched doorways behind and to the left of the stone pier (Dmaz property) become visible.

Other Options
Puerto Don Juan is a sheltered bay with a sand beach eight miles from Bahma de L.A. One of the best natural harbors in the Cortez, it is popular with the yachting crowd.

The trip to Las Animas, approximately 15-20 miles south of Bahma de L.A., depending on how closely you hug the shore, is also an option, though shuttling back from the fishing village of Las Animas can be difficult.

Pangas can be chartered at Casa Dmaz and elsewhere in town for a trip out to Isla Raza, a noted bird sanctuary in the chain of islands that lie off the Canal de Salsipuedes, southeast of Punta Las Animas.


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