Explore Channel Islands National Park
The eight California Channel Islands are important features in the ecology and history of the Southern California Bight. They contain a rich diversity of plant and animal life, including many species and subspecies that are endemic to one or more of the islands, meaning they don’t occur anywhere else on earth.
The four northern islands make up the southern boundary of the Santa Barbara Channel and together with Santa Barbara Island comprise the Channel Islands National Park. The water surrounding those five islands to a distance of six miles comprise the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, with an area of 1,110 square nautical miles.
The Channel Islands have a rich history of human use and habitation. There are records of native American occupation dating as far back as 13,000 years, putting them among the oldest in North America. The Chumash thrived on the northern islands. They crossed the channel in seagoing canoes called tomols and traded with other tribes throughout western North America. More recently, explorers, fur hunters, squatters and ranchers made their homes on the islands for varying periods of time. Today the Islands in the park and the natural and archeological resources they contain are protected and open to controlled visitation.
San Miguel is the westernmost and the most exposed to open Pacific ocean of the Channel Islands and one of the windiest points in the US. Six species of pinnipeds use the island: California sea lion, northern elephant seal, harbor seal, northern fur seal, Guadalupe fur seal and Steller sea lion, more than any other island in the northern hemisphere.
Santa Rosa Island is the second largest of the islands, with an area of just over 83 square miles, and was used for ranching and as a game preserve until recently. It also harbors extensive pinniped rookeries.
Santa Cruz is the largest Channel Island encompassing, over 96 square miles and one of the most visited. It offers a magnificent coastline perfect for exploring by boat and by kayak and features the spectacular Painted Cave. It is home to the Santa Cruz Island Scrub Jay, one of only four bird species found only in California. It is managed both by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy, which owns the western 76 percent of the island.
Anacapa is comprised of three separate islands that are joined only at extremely low tides, and with an area of just over a square mile, the second smallest in the chain. It is the closest to the mainland and an important seabird rookery, hosting the largest breeding colonies of Brown Pelicans and Western Gulls in the world.
We will include a visit to at least one of the Channel Islands during our whale watching trips whenever conditions permit it. Most often, we visit the largest island in the chain, Santa Cruz, and poke our bow into the entrance of Painted Cave, one of the longest sea caves in the world, measuring 1,215 feet.