In Love with Cholla Bay

Feb 5, 2014 by Gretchen Ellinger

If you haven’t been to Cholla Bay, you have missed a very special community! Fishermen have known about Cholla Bay since the 1930’s or 40’s – there are still “old timers” with stories to tell of getting to Cholla over the old one lane sand road, that was converted to a 2-lane toll road, still sand, that was converted to a free 2-lane dirt road across the desert, that evolved into the current paved road that winds its way along Sandy Beach before changing into a wide improved caliche road that is well-maintained and leads to the charming community that reminds many of a Mediterranean village in Greece or Italy.

Mexican fishermen and their families made room for and provided services to the devoted fishing enthusiasts who were the first “gringos” to build permanent cabins in Cholla Bay on plots of land that were leased from the owner, and a few established permanent full-time homes in the community. Development and legal property ownership followed; while many improved their fishing cabins into vacation homes, some people invested in the construction of beautiful homes, a trend that increased when electricity was brought to the community in the late 1990’s. Today’s eclectic mix of original cabins, homes, and some truly grand dwellings that would be at home in La Jolla or Corona del Mar, is the result of the evolution of Cholla Bay.

Still a community devoted to fishing, the Cholla Bay homeowners built and maintains the boat launch area located on the beach below JJ’s Cantina, another Cholla Bay fixture since the early days. Many think that one of the best reasons to own property in Cholla Bay is that boat owners can dry store their boats on their own property. Several men make their livings by providing launch services to boaters – for a fee which is quite reasonable; your launcher will tow your boat from your property to the boat launch, where he puts the boat, complete with passengers, supplies and equipment, into the water. When the fishing expedition is over, a radio or cell phone call to the launcher brings him back to pluck the boat from the water and return it to its home.

Cholla’s amazing estuary is blessed with wonderful beaches and dramatic differences between high and low tides. Beachcombers can walk the beaches and the tideline at low tide, and are often surprised by treasures such as sand dollars, baby octopi and squid that can be found only when the tide is out. Swimmers delight in high tide – the calm waters are perfect for swimming, wind surfing and other water sports, and jellyfish are rarely seen in Cholla waters.

The sense of community in Cholla Bay is very special. The clubhouse, owned by the Vecinos de la Cholla, is used for monthly social events, meetings, and the occasional special event. The Vecinos de la Cholla holds an annual Christmas party for the children of the Cholla Bay Mexican families, the Old Boys Social Club or OBSC (also for old girls!) hosts many of the monthly social activities, and the Cholla Bay Sportsmen’s Club (CBSC) provides marine safety services for the Upper Sea of Cortes. Property ownership is a requirement for membership in the Vecinos de la Cholla, but membership in the OBSC and CBSC is open to everyone, and everyone, member or not, is invited to their social events.

Cholla Bay boasts several restaurants, a fishing supply business, two small but well-stocked markets, a motel, and JJ’s Cantina, as well as service providers such as architects and contractors. Drive out to Cholla Bay, have breakfast or lunch, or sip a beer at JJ’s as you watch the boats launching. You are sure to meet interesting people, and you might get lucky and bump into one of the “old timers” who is willing to share some of his stories. Be prepared – you might just fall in love with Cholla Bay!

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