The Matomí Canyon Waterfalls was a point of interest first told to my family by Arnold Limón of San Felipe around 1967. Arnold was the owner of Arnold’s Del Mar Café, where we would stop for a meal on our way to or from points south. He described an exotic waterfall that filled a giant pool formed by a hollowed boulder and made notes in our Lower California Guidebook (by Gerhard & Gulick).

As that side-trip, many miles up a long arroyo, was best done with a companion vehicle (and we always traveled solo), we never made that trip with our Jeep Wagoneer.

Once I was driving and exploring in Baja in the 1970s, I began searching for an abandoned road I read about. It went from just south of the sulfur mine over to Valle Chico, at the foot of the San Pedro Mártir mountains. I found that road in late 1978, just after the Baja 1000 race, which for the first time drove down Arroyo Matomí from Valle Chico. I now had a new area to explore that included finally trying to find the famous waterfall I heard of when I was nine years old. In January, 1979, I again traveled to Valle Chico from the sulfur mine. Only this time, I turned south to see Arroyo Matomí and look for the waterfall!

1979, January

Unable to reach the upper ranch house of Sr. Tomás Dowling due to rising arroyo water, I turned around and at this point, that was dry moments before, was now underwater. My Subaru got stuck in the wet sand and I was really worried! Fortunately, my brain reminded me that lowering the tires air pressure was how to get unstuck from sand. Just before the rising water reached my door, I drove out!

1979, August

While friends and I were camping on Shell Island, I talked them into going on a side trip to see the Matomí Waterfall! They didn’t know I had not yet seen it! We made it and Tomás was at his upper ranch house, just beyond the boulder cliff I am jumping of of here, as my friends watch.

In the 1980s, I returned to Matomí canyon a few times. If I find those photos, they will be added.

2001, February

For President’s Day weekend, 2001, I led a small caravan of 4x4s from the Amigos de Baja message board to see both Shell Island and Matomí Canyon (two days of tours).

Rodrigo was the new resident at the upper Matomí ranch house. The lower house was now gone, as was old Señor Dowling.

2004, February

The gang on the Internet, now Baja Nomad Forums, wanted to have a reunion trip to Matomí Canyon for President’s Day, three years after the first group trip.

The south edge of Valle Chico is the Matomí canyon. An old road grade is seen on the opposite bank. Here the Valle Chico road drops steeply down to the big arroyo.
Three vehicle from Mexico’s Fish & Game/EPA department were in Matomí to check on big horn sheep and other rare animals. The Chevy is stuck because a vacuum hose was bad and the 4 wheel drive didn’t work.
I pause at the exact place where 26 years ago I was stuck in a rising Matomí river!

Rancho El Matomí

Nobody was home today, but someone was there recently. The path down to the waterfall fed pool is to the right. Photo looking west.
Behind the Matomí ranch house the ‘oasis’ pool is visible, way below.
Upstream from the pool (1/3 mile), running water exits from a narrow gorge.
The El Matomí Canyon Oasis, Shangri-La in Baja?

Pat and Ray (Mexray). Ray was with us in 2001 piloting a Subaru Brat all the way with no problems.
David K at Matomí Falls. My first visit was 26 years ago and it is still exciting for me to be here.
Tunaeater (Paul) and his dad, ‘el comadante loco’ (Rudy).
Suzanne ‘GeoRock’ likes to make a big splash when in Baja!
What goes down, must come up? Pat secures Pete so only the female Hummer passengers get soaked. Yes, the three girls jumped in after Suzanne did!
A final look at Matomí Falls, Feb. 15, 2004.


Photo from GeoRock’s automatic camera at Rancho Matomí. From the left: Bob H & Audrey, MaryAnn & Mike Humfreville, Pat & MexRay, Steve & Edie H, David K, GeoRock & Pete, Bill W & TW. On the Hummer: Alicia, Sarah, Brittany. In front: Surfer Jim (+Shelby the wonder dog). Tunaeater & Rudy left before photo taken.
That Hummer really could maneuver over this tough road as we head back to camp from Rancho El Matomí and the oasis just behind it.
Heading down Arroyo Matomí towards Hwy. 5 is some beautiful scenery.

2006, June

My new girlfriend of 1.5 years, Elizabeth, was always game for some four-wheel-drive adventures. We drove up Arroyo Matomí from Highway 5, to the waterfall pool. After a dip, we headed north on the Valle Chico road.

Sadly, this was the least amount of water I had ever seen on the waterfall, but it was summertime. Elizabeth was a bit underwhelmed.

Standing about where I was in the 1979 photo.

2017, March

One final time at the stuck-in-water location of 38 years earlier.


I had planned to drive out to Highway 5 in Arroyo Matomí.
Only motorcycle tracks were seen in the sand, which was much lower than in 2006 when the rocks were under the sand. My plans were dashed, so I returned to Valle Chico then went east via the sulfur mine road (Cañada el Parral).
The climb out of Arroyo Matomí to Valle Chico.

Arroyo Matomí is along the bottom edge of this map: