In February, 1966 a group of adventurous desert explorers lead by author Erle Stanley Gardner found a scraggly date palm, ruins of a reservoir dam, rock walls, and more while opening a new trail south of Bahia de los Angeles.

What they found nearly 40 miles from Bahia de los Angeles was so impressive that desert expert and author Choral Pepper believes it may have been the beginings of a Spanish mission shown on a 1757 Jesuit map, but otherwise not recorded in known writings. A bell with ill-fated mission's name, 'Santa Maria Magdalena', ended up at the nearest established mission, Santa Gertrudis.

Desert Magazine July, 1966

The only photographs taken at the site appeared in Choral Pepper's Desert Magazine's 'Magic of Baja' series about the expedition with Erle Stanley Gardner. This is what I have been seeking since meeting Choral nine years ago. I have wanted to know the location of this site since reading her Baja book back in 1973!

Choral Pepper and I at her Coronado, California home discussing the lost mission they found in 1966... I also spoke by phone with three others on the expedition: Bruce Barron, Ricardo Castillo and J.W. Black. None could recall exactly where it was!
Sadly, Choral passed away in 2002. See many of her photos taken on Baja expeditions at http://choralpepper.com/

Listed in a popular Baja guide of the 70's & 80's

'The Baja Book' (1974), 'The Baja Book II' (1977), and 'The Baja Book III' (1987) by Tom Miller has the site listed in the history section.

Map of 1757

Full map, English version.

1757 Bahia de los Angeles Region

At the bottom notice 'Miss de S.M.Mag. empezada', (empezada means 'started'). While shown south of the location of the 'Pepper' ruins, it is still illustrated as the next mission north of Santa Gertrudis (then called 'Dolores del Norte'). The map maker (Miguel Venegas) drew this map from other's information between 1746-1749, as he never was in California.

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