"Aerial view" by U.S. National Park Service , public domain
Channel Islands National Park California National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Nowhere Else On Earth Something draws us to the sea and its islands. Maybe it is the thrill of traveling over water to an unfamiliar land or the yearning for tranquility—to walk on a deserted beach with birds, salty breezes, and the rhythmic wash of waves as our companions. You don’t have to go far to find such a place. Off the coast of southern California the Channel Islands seem to float on the horizon like ribbons of dark rock. Named for the deep troughs that separate them from the mainland, the eight islands and their encircling waters are home to over 2,000 species of animals and plants—145 are found nowhere else on Earth. Isolation over thousands of years and the mingling of warm and cold ocean currents give rise to the rich biodiversity of these islands. Today, five of the islands, their submerged lands, and the waters within one nautical mile of each island are protected as Channel Islands National Park. A Safe Haven for Seabirds Channel Islands The islands provide essential nesting and feeding grounds for 99 percent of seabirds in southern California. Eleven seabird species nest on the islands, including the only major breeding colony of California brown pelicans in the western United States. Not long ago they faced extinction. In 1970 only one chick on West Ana capa survived. Scientists pinpointed DDT as the cause and listed the brown pelican as an endangered species in 1970 and banned DDT in 1972. The fight to save these birds led to a remarkable recovery and in 2009 they were removed from the endangered species list. The Channel Islands from the Ice Ages to Today Living Alone Lower ocean levels during the ice ages narrowed the distance across the Santa Barbara Channel and exposed some of the seafloor. The land offshore, easier to reach then, allowed some spe cies to venture into this new terri tory. Mammoths swam the chan nel. Mice and foxes drifted over on rafts of vegetation. Plants and seeds floated. Birds flew. Later, water from melting glaciers raised the sea level. This widened the channel again and increased the isolation of animals and plants from the mainland. Kinship of Islands and Sea A powerful bond between the land and sea controls everything here, from where plants grow to when seals breed. Together, water cur rents, winds, and weather create an ecosystem that supports a rich diversity of life. Among the 2,000 species you will find here are northern fur seals, bright orange garibaldi (California’s state marine fish), some 28 species of whales and dolphins, intertidal dwellers like sea stars and surfgrass, and squid, a major link in the food chain as predator and prey. Many species evolved over time and adapted to the isolated environment. Mammoths evolved to a new species of pygmy mammoth, and gray foxes shrank to the size of house cats, becoming today’s island fox. Species of mice, scrub jays, and many plants grew larger. People on the Islands The islands attracted seafaring people long ago; 13,000-year-old remains of a human leg bone found on Santa Rosa record the earliest known human presence in North America. Over time Chumash Indians settled on the northern islands, and Gabrieliño/Tongva settled the southern islands. Prosperous and industrious, the tribes joined in a trading network that extended up and down the coast and inland. The island Chu mash used purple olivella shells to manufacture the main currency used for this commerce. The region’s temperate climate and bountiful natural resources later attracted Spanish explorers, mis sionaries, and ranchers. In October 1542 Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed into the Santa Barbara Channel. His expedition wintered on an island he called Isla de Posesión. On January 3, 1543, Cabrillo died from injuries and may have been buried on one of the islands, although his grave has never been found. Capt. George Vancouver gave the islands their present names in 1793. Early in the 1800s fur traders searched the coves for sea otters, seals, and sea lions, nearly hunting them to extinction. Protection and Restoration Protection for the islands began in 1938 when Anacapa and Santa Barbara became Channel Islands National Monument. In 1980 Con By 1822 most Chumash had been gress designated San Miguel, moved to mainland missions. Fish Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, ing camps and ranching had be Santa Barbara, and the submerged come economic mainstays by the lands and waters within one nauti late 1800s. In the 1900s the military cal mile of each island as Channel set up lookouts on Anacapa and Islands National Park. The waters Santa Barbara and practiced bomb extending out six nautical miles ing raids on San Miguel. These from each island are a National activities had devastating effects Marine Sanctuary. Channel Islands on the island ecology, introducing National Park monitors and pro alien plant and animal species that tects threatened and endangered threatened to destroy the ecologi species, restores ecosystems, and cal dynamics of the islands. Today, preserves the natural and cultural ranching and other commercial resources for you and for genera and military activities have ceased tions to come. and the islands are regaining some of their natural diversity. This illustration is a composite of the park’s five islands. NPS / MICHAEL HAMPSHIRE Visiting Channel Islands National Park The eight Channel Islands span 160 miles off the coast of southern California (see map at left). There are four northern islands—San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa, and four southern islands—San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, and San Clemente. Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website. The Ventura visitor center is accessible for visitors with special needs, but getting onto the islands can be difficult; ask for details. Service animals are welcome in the mainland visitor center. On the islands they are allowed only by permit from the superintendent. Things to See and Do Visitors to the islands may swim, snorkel, hike, camp, watch wildlife, kayak, sail, and explore tidepools, beaches, and rugged canyons. Naturalists lead hikes. The kelp forests, caves, clear water, and rich diversity of animals and plants make this one of the top scuba diving sites in the world. Protecting the Islands The islands’ natural and cultural resources, including all seabirds, marine mammals and other wildlife, plants and wildflowers, artifacts, structures, rocks, fossils, shells, and shipwrecks are protected by federal law—all collecting is illegal. Keep at least 100 yards away from marine mammals and seabirds. Fish and wildlife laws are strictly enforced. Staying on trails helps prevent erosion and protects fragile vegetation. For Your Safety Be sure to check the park website and newspaper for details about safety and regulations. • Weather conditions change rapidly; dress in layers. • There are no supplies on the islands. Take water, food, and other necessities. • Watch your step— ladders, railings, and stairs may be wet. • Stay back from cliff edges; they may be crumbly or undercut—a fall could be fatal. • Do not approach marine mammals like whales, seals, and sea lions. • Pets are prohibited on the islands. • Check yourself for ticks and watch out for poison oak. • For firearms regulations ask a park ranger or check the park website. WARNING Deer mice on the islands may carry diseases, including deadly hantavirus. Avoid all contact with mice and other wild animals. Keep food in rodent-proof containers. In an emergency: On the islands contact a ranger. On the water use marine radio VHF channel 16. San Miguel Island Commercial Service to the Islands Channel Islands Aviation 305 Durley Avenue Camarillo, CA 93010 805-987-1301 www.flycia.com Island Packers, Inc. 1691 Spinnaker Drive, Suite 105 B Ventura, CA 93001 805-642-1393 www.islandpackers.com More Information Channel Islands National Park 1901 Spinnaker Drive Ventura, CA 93001-4354 805-658-5730 www.nps.gov/chis This westernmost island receives the brunt of the north westerly winds, fog, and severe weather from the open ocean. The cold, nutrient-rich water surrounding the 9,491-acre, eight-mile-long and four-mile-wide island is home for a diversity of sea life. Submerged rocks make the nearly 28-mile coastline a mariner’s nightmare. Rough seas and risky landings did not daunt the Chumash who lived here, nor did they deter the first European explorer, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, in 1542. Ranchers raised sheep from 1850 to 1948. Later the Navy used the island for a bombing range. Today, native species are making a recovery in this sanctuary. Island Features: Chumash sites; Cabrillo Monument; caliche forest; seabird, seal, and sea lion rookeries. Each year over 100,000 seals and sea lions breed and haul out on San Miguel. Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center 113 Harbor Way, 4th floor Santa Barbara, CA 93109 805-884-1475 Santa Rosa Island Channel Islands is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. Visit www.nps.gov to learn more about parks and National Park Service programs. © TIM HAUF PHOTOGRAPHY Visitor Centers The visitor center in Ventura has information, a film, an indoor marine life display, exhibits about the natural and cultural features of the islands, a native plant garden, and a bookstore. A small visitor center in Santa Barbara has information and exhibits. Both visitor centers are open daily, except Thanksgiving and December 25. Planning Your Visit? Whether you go to the islands on your own boat or with a park concessioner, you should use the park website (nps.gov/chis) and the free park newspaper, The Island Guide, to plan your visit. They describe the many tour options that are available and include information about boat and airplane concessioners that can take you to the islands. They have detailed information about activities on the islands and in the water, boating safety, weather, park regulations, and more. Park staff can also help you plan your visit. Contact a visitor center for information. © TIM HAUF PHOTOGRAPHY When was the last time you gazed at the ocean? Did you see the islands? Feel them call you? Savor the sea— its gulls, barking sea lions, and tiny creatures. Take time for a visit. The National Park Islands at a Glance The second-largest island, with 53,051 acres—15 miles long and 10 miles wide—beckons you with rolling hills, deep canyons, a coastal lagoon, and beaches adorned with sand dunes and driftwood. The Chumash called it Wima or “driftwood” because channel currents brought ashore logs from which they built tomols, plank canoes. For thousands of years unusual animals and plants made the island their home. Flightless geese, giant mice, and pygmy mammoths are extinct, while the island fox, spotted skunk, and munchkin dudleya (one of six plant species found only on this island) still live here. Island Features: Chumash and ranching history; Torrey pines; snowy plover; Lobo Canyon; sand dunes; beaches. Rare Torrey pines grow only near San Diego and at Bechers Bay. © TIM HAUF PHOTOGRAPHY Here are pristine beaches, rugged mountains, lonely canyons, grass-covered hills, and some animals and plants that you have never seen before. This paradise is Santa Cruz Island, a miniature of what southern California looked like over 100 years ago. The largest island in the national park, with 61,972 acres, Santa Cruz is 22 miles long and from two to six miles wide. A central valley splits the island along the Santa Cruz Island fault, with volcanic rock on the north and older sedimentary rock on the south. The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service preserve and protect the island. Island Features: historic ranches; island fox; island scrub jay; Painted Cave, one of the world’s largest sea caves. From the hills above Smuggler’s Ranch you can see Anacapa in the distance. © TIM HAUF PHOTOGRAPHY Anacapa Island Twelve miles from the mainland a five-mile-long spine of rock emerges from the ocean, breaks into three islets, and offers itself as home to 265 species of plants and a bevy of seabirds—with the largest brown pelican rookery in the United States. On charts the island of 737 acres appears as East, Middle, and West Anacapa. The Chumash called it Anyapakh or “mirage.” It was anything but a mirage on the night of December 2, 1853, when the sidewheel steamer Winfield Scott running at full speed crashed into rocks off Middle Anacapa and sank. The Coast Guard built a light beacon in 1912 and a light station in 1932. Island Features: bird rookeries; Chumash middens; giant coreopsis; tidepools; kelp forests; sea caves; arches. Sunrise lights up Inspiration Point and Middle and West Anacapa. Santa Barbara Island Marine Protected Areas Within the park and sanctuary is a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that provide a refuge for sea life and opportu nities for recreation, education, and science. In 11 Marine Reserves, recreational fishing and commercial harvest are prohibited; limited fishing and harvest are allowed in two Marine Conservation Areas. The MPAs total 318 square miles, the largest such network off the continental United States. For more information visit www.nps.gov/chis. Islands on the Edge The Channel Islands lie in a region between the mainland coast and the deep ocean called the Continental Shelf. The sea floor is com posed of canyons, banks (under water plateaus), escarpments, sea mounts, and deep basins (Santa Cruz Basin is deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon). This topo graphy—shallow and deep, smooth and rugged, sunlit and dark—creates habitats for a diversity of species. The islands rose from the ocean millions of years ago and were born of plate tectonics, volcanic activity, and fluctuating sea levels. These islands on the edge of the continent were never con nected to the mainland. During the ice ages ocean levels dropped as the polar caps expanded. What are now San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa islands were once joined as a single island called Santarosae. When the sea rose again it created the four islands we see today. Ocean currents also play a big role in the biodiversity of the islands. A cold current traveling south along the North Pacific coast meets at the Channel Islands with a warm current moving up from the tropics. Upwelling nutrients from the ocean floor mingle with these currents, mixing fish and other sea life into a rich living soup. Giant kelp forests encircle the islands and host a wealth of ocean visitors, from tiny plankton and sponges to giant blue whales. © TIM HAUF PHOTOGRAPHY Exploring Channel Islands National Park Santa Cruz Island Giant coreopsis (tree sunflowers) make a showy display at Arch Point. Join the park community. www.nationalparks.org ✩GPO:20xx–xxx-xxx/xxxxx Reprint 20xx Printed on Recycled Paper Steep cliffs of this smallest island—644 acres or about one square mile—rise above rocky shores to a grassy mesa flanked with twin peaks. Gabrieliño/Tongva Indians fished here. Explorers, seal and abalone hunters, ranchers, and the military took their toll. Today, after years of species and habitat loss, animals and native vegetation are making a remarkable recovery. Among those found here are Scripps’s murrelet, a seabird that nests in crevices in the cliffs, and the Santa Barbara Island live-forever, a rare plant found only on this island. Island Features: seabird, seal, and sea lion rookeries; island night lizard; wildflowers; kelp forests.