Channel Islands National Park

CA Channel Islands

It is comparatively little known that there are eight islands in the Pacific Ocean off of the coast of California, the so-called Channel Islands. While the islands of San Clemente and San Nicolas in the South of the archipelago with a total length of more than 250 kilometers are administered by the Navy and are not publicly accessible, five other islands were merged into a National Park in 1980. The eighth of these islands, Santa Catalina Island, is the only one with a population worth mentioning (there are some 3700 people living here)  and it is an important tourist destination. Those guests arrive on the island by ferry or plane from the mainland. Santa Catalina is not a part of the National Park.

The islands of Channel Islands National Park are located close to the densely populated California coastal region, but they have been spared from the explosive population growth and building boom there and are thus still home to a wide range of plant and animal species. There are more than 140 species here that do not live anywhere else in the world. Visitors will find some rare birds on the islands as well as an endangered fox species unique to the National Park and  several sea lions, while various kinds of dolphins and whales live in the waters around the islands.

The National Park’s visitor centers are located on the mainland; one is in the Santa Barbara harbour area and one in Ventura harbour. The islands themselves can only be reached by boat or seaplane, the Visitors Centers have further information on transportation options. Excursions to the islands, departing from Ventura, Santa Barbara or Oxnard are available as half or full day trips. Overnight stays are also possible, there are campgrounds on each of the islands for which reservations must be made in advance. Park Rangers are offering guided tours to the islands on a regular basis.

The National Park’s islands


Except for a ranger station, Anacapa Island, which is some 23 kilometers off the coast is uninhabited. Arch Rock, a natural bridge with a height of 12 meters and the Anacapa Island Light house constructed in 1932 are the island’s sights.


Santa Barbara Island

The smallest of the archipelago’s eight islands is uninhabited and is located some 60 kilometers off the coast, roughly across from Los Angeles. In the waters there are also two small rock islands. The island is nesting habitat for a number of rare bird species and home to a sea lion colony.


Santa Cruz Island

A part of the Channel Islands’ northern group, Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the archipelago with an area of almost 250 square kilometers. It has a length of 35 kilometers and a width of up to 10 kilometers. The island with its steep cliffs used to be the largest privately owned US island and from the 1860s on was home to a herd of sheep, at times numbering to more than 20,000 animals. Today, Santa Cruz Island is a popular tourist destination. A number of rare animal species live here, the most famous of which is the national animal of the USA, the bald eagle. Once a native of Santa Cruz Island, the bald eagle was not seen on the island for some 50 years until an expensive reintroduction program brought them back from the year  2002 on. 


San Miguel Island

The westernmost of the Channel Islands is 13 kilometers in length and up to six kilometers in width. Due to its location, it  is subjected to the climate of the open sea with strong winds and frequent fogs. National Park Service maintains a small station on San Miguel Island. There is only a maximum of 30 visitors allowed on the island at a time, a boat transportation service is available from Ventura. There are to hiking paths on the island which will bring visitors to an overlook of the large sea lion colony living here.


Santa Rosa Island

Also located in the northern part of the chain, Santa Rosa Island is the second-largest of the Channel Islands. It is located some 42 kilometers off the coast of Santa Barbara and encompasses 215 square kilometers. With Vail Peak, a mountain with a height of 484 meters, it even has a notable elevation. Also, there are beaches, sand dunes and a lagoon on Santa Rosa Island. It is a habitat for some rare plants, among them is a lichen species named after President Obama. A number of sea creatures can be watched in the waters off the island.

More information on Channel Islands Nationalpark can be found on the National Park Service website.



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