By David Kier
On the side of a rocky cliff, up a dead-end valley, in a forest of boojum trees, one may find a connection to the ancient past of Baja. Some have reported the paintings to be 10,000 years old, making them some of the oldest on the peninsula.
I first learned about Montevideo in the 1967 Fourth Edition of Gerhard & Gulick’s Lower California Guidebook. The location is fairly easy to find, but a four-wheel- drive vehicle is recommended. Larger vehicles are also subject to brush and tree scratches as the road seems less used than in the past and is quite over-grown. According to Harry Crosby in his book, ‘The Cave Paintings of Baja California’, the location had been published earlier by a Mexican archeologist, Ing. Ernesto Raúl López, calling the site ‘Volcancito’. In Campbell Grant’s book, ‘Rock Art of Baja California’, a photograph (at Montevideo) named the location ‘La Angostura’.
Whatever you call the place, its colorfully painted cliff is well worth a visit to see the messages left for us to try and interpret.
A flash flood at the cliff has cleared out much vegetation near the site since my previous visit, ten years ago. The easy part of a Montevideo visit is that you can drive right to the painted cliff, the art is only steps from your vehicle. Many paintings exist here. Most are at ground level, but with some climbing up the rocks or into shallow caves you will continue to see more and more.
To reach Montevideo, take the graded dirt road signed for Mission San Borja which goes south from the Bahía de los Angeles highway (27 miles east from Highway One or 13 miles west from Bahía de los Angeles). In two miles, a side road goes left (east). If the Montevideo road is passed, just beyond is an arroyo crossing with a short grade. The side road distance to the painted cliff site is just under six miles.
This road goes through some of the finest samples of native Baja California desert vegetation adding to the enjoyment of this desert side trip. Visiting Montevideo when going to or from Mission San Borja really gives a wow factor of any visit to Baja California. One trip will not be enough to take it all in!
Please respect the site by only taking photographs and leaving only footprints. Never touch the paintings so they are preserved as long as possible for future generations to enjoy them as we have.
David Kier is a veteran Baja traveler, author of 'Baja California - Land Of Missions' and co-author of 'The Old Missions of Baja and Alta California 1697-1834'. Visit the Old Missions website.