Channel Islands, California on the map. National Park Channel Islands (California state) on the map of US

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Channel Islands, California on the map. National Park Channel Islands  (California state) on the map of US

Previous pages: Beautiful blue Lake Tenaya in Yosemite National Park is rimmed by gently rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Above right, top: Arch Rock on Anacapa Island. The closest island to the mainland, Anacapa is composed of three small islets—East Anacapa, Middle Anacapa and West Anacapa—that are accessible to each other only by boat. Migrating whales can often be seen in the offshore waters between January and March.

Above right, middle: The lighthouse on East Anacapa Island stands as a reminder of those solitary individuals who, using the lighthouse's bright beacon, warned sailors away from the fog-hidden dangers.

Right: From August to December, the elephant seal lives out in the ocean, feeding on fish and other deepwater marine life. In December, they return to the islands to breed.


Channel Islands, California

Established: 1980   Acreage: 249,354


Located just off California's southern coast, five of the eight Channel Islands—Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara—and their six nautical miles of ocean make up Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary. The park and the sanctuary provide a habitat for marine life ranging from the microscopic plankton to the largest creature on earth—the blue whale.


Isolation from the mainland and the mingling of warm and cold water currents in the Santa Barbara Channel help form the Channel Islands' unique character. The plants and animals are similar to those on the mainland, but thousands of years of isolation in unique island environments have resulted in size, shape or color variations among some plants and animals. The island fox, a relative of the mainland's gray fox, is the size of a house cat. It preys on deer mice, which are slightly larger than their mainland counterparts.


Isolation has also protected the islands. Tidepools, unlike those found on the mainland, are brimming with life—sea anemones, abalone, sea urchins, limpets. The undercover rocks at San Miguel are still covered with white-plumed sea anemones, and vivid purple hyprocorals filter water for food near Santa Cruz Island, the largest and most diverse of the park islands.


Seafaring Indians plied the Santa Barbara Channel in swift, seaworthy canoes called tomols. The Chumash, or 'island people,' had villages on the large islands and traded with the mainland Indians. In 1542, explorer Juan Rodriguez entered the same channel, the first European to land on the islands. Beginning in the late 1700s, Russian, British and American fur traders searched the islands' coves and shorelines for sea otters. After the otter was hunted almost to extinction, hunters then concentrated on taking seals and sea lions for their fur and oil.


In the early 1800s the Chumash Indians were removed to the mainland missions. By the mid-1800s, except for the fishermen who operated from cove camps, ranching became the economic mainstay. The Santa Cruz Island ranch produced sheep, cattle, honey, olives and some of the finest early California wines.


Each island is unique, with its own history and topography. Even the flora and fauna can vary from island to island. Santa Cruz Island has eight species of plants not found on any of the other islands. Its diversity of habitat makes Santa Cruz a biologist's paradise.


Facing page: Except for Frenches Cove, the entire island of West Anacapa is closed to protect the nesting area of the brown pelican.

Channel Islands, California on the map. National Park Channel Islands  (California state) on the map of US