Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park sees more than 360 thousand visitors each year

Five of the eight Channel Islands in the National Park are protected, and half of the park’s area is underwater. The islands have a unique Mediterranean ecosystem originally settled by the Chumash people. They are home to over 2,000 species of land plants and animals, and 145 are unique to them, including the island fox. Ferry services offer transportation to the islands from the mainland.


The geologic formations in the Channel Islands are breathtaking

The story of the rocks that make up the islands goes back well over 100 million years and is a history of the changes wrought by plate tectonics in southern California. Up to about 30 million years ago, the western edge of North America was a place where two large plates of the Earth’s crust converged. As the oceanic Farallon plate approached the continental North American plate from the west, it descended into a deep trench and was destroyed by melting in the mantle (subduction). Landward of the trench, a marine basin was formed and for many millions of years the sediments that washed off the land into this basin collected and solidified to become some of the ‘basement’ rocks that we see on the islands today.

All of this changed about 30 million years ago when the Farallon plate ran out of material in southern California. The plate behind it – the Pacific plate – began to slide past the continent. Between 27 and 18 million years ago, the Pacific plate made contact with North America and continental pieces began to break off and join the Pacific plate, gradually establishing the modern San Andreas plate boundary where, in southern California, the two plates are sliding by each other, moving laterally in opposite directions along the San Andreas fault. Between 18 to 5 million years ago, compressive forces ceased, to be replaced by a slight extensional regime (transtension).

The orientation of the islands and their uplift in the last five million years are directly attributable to the plate tectonic forces caused by the Pacific plate’s arrival at the edge of the North American continent.

The Islands as Part of the Transverse Ranges
Most of the mountain ranges of California trend north-south, but the Transverse Ranges, including the Santa Monica Mountains and their extension into the ocean, the northern Channel Islands, trend east-west. Geologists believe that, 20 million years ago, the platform on which the islands are located was oriented north-south along the coast, with San Miguel lying just offshore of San Diego. Forces resulting from relative movements of the Pacific and North American plates have caused the western Transverse Ranges to rotate clockwise to their present position. It is as if one sliver of the continent – the Transverse Ranges -got caught up in the shear between the plates. It rotated ‘much like a floating plank that has one end snagged on the river bank, while the other end is dragged along by the current’. Evidence for this rotation is found, in part, by magnetism in the rocks of the islands. When the rocks of the northern Channel islands were formed, magnetic particles in the rocks would have been in line with the magnetic poles of the Earth. Measurements now taken in the rocks of the northern Channel Islands show that the magnetic particles differing by about 100 degrees from a polar orientation, with the oldest rocks showing the greatest variance. This suggests that the islands have rotated clockwise about 100 degrees since the formation of the rocks.

East of the rotating block, a gap opened, creating the space now partially occupied by the Los Angeles basin. The space was filled from below by igneous rocks and the uplift and unroofing of mid-crustal metamorphic rocks like the Catalina schist.

Submarine Volcanism
The rotation of the platform on which the islands are located caused the ocean crust to thin and the resulting reduction in pressure allowed molten rock to erupt under the sea. Between 19 and 15 million years ago, lava flows and volcanoes covered much of the area that now comprises the northern Channel Islands and the western Santa Monica Mountains. The thickness of the volcanic rock in some places is as much as 10,000 feet. In the Santa Monica Mountains, the name given to this vast volcanic sequence is the Conejo Volcanics. Contemporaneous flows found on the Channel Islands have slightly different chemical compositions and are often named for the islands on which they are found, such as the Santa Rosa Island Volcanics and the San Miguel Island Volcanics. Although they did not necessarily have the same magma source, there is little doubt that they were formed by the same mechanism of decompression during the rotation of the western Transverse Ranges block. The islands of Santa Barbara and Anacapa are composed almost entirely of volcanic rocks from this period of eruptions.

Pillow lava, a type of lava found in some of the rocks, is evidence that much of the volcanic action took place underwater. In other places, oyster shells and other marine fossils are found embedded in the lava. At times, the outpouring of the lava was so great that the volcanic piles reached above sea level and formed volcanic islands, some of which were 5000 feet high. Evidence for this is the presence of volcanic ‘bombs’, where pieces of lava were thrown into the air and twisted into shapes of footballs as they fell back to the surface. Volcanic bombs have been found in the Conejo Volcanics and in the Santa Rosa Island Volcanics. These islands were probably short lived and were eroded to below sea level after volcanic action ceased.

Sedimentary Rocks
Many of the rocks of the northern Channel Islands are sedimentary, made up of sediment washed out to sea from the mainland, reworked volcanic deposits, and shells and skeletons of marine organisms. Much is shale, deposited as mud, but there is also sandstone that formed by sand being swept out to sea from the mainland in huge submarine landslides.

Not all the sedimentary rocks were deposited below the surface of the ocean, however. As the last piece of the Farallon plate was subducted beneath the continent, the East Pacific Rise – an under-sea mountain range that separated the Farallon plate from the Pacific plate – came into contact with the North American plate. This probably led to an uplift of the area and the deposit of sediment in an alluvial plane, much like the present alluvial plain of the Santa Clara river in the Oxnard-Ventura area. The pink-colored rocks of the Sespe Formation were deposited about 30 million years ago in this uplifted area. Iron-rich minerals in terrestrial environments commonly are oxidized, giving them red, orange and yellow colors. This period of uplift was short lived, however, because the later sediments, which date between 25 and 5 million years ago, were deposited first in shallow marine environments, then in progressively deeper marine settings.

Analysis of some of the sedimentary rocks provide additional evidence that the islands have rotated 100 degrees clockwise from their original position adjacent to the coast. On San Miguel Island, rocks dating 50-30 million years ago contain well-rounded pieces of rhyolite that are chemically identical to the rhyolite found in similar age deposits in San Diego county. The inference is that these pieces of rhyolite reached the islands in a submarine fan deposit when the islands were positioned off the coast of San Diego. Analysis of the direction of the currents flowing at that time shows that they came from a southerly direction. However, the only possible source of these sediments is from the mainland, which lies to the east of the islands, giving geologists one more reason to believe that the islands have rotated 90-100 degrees in the last 20 million years.

Uplift of the Islands–Folding and Faulting
The last of the marine rocks are only about five million years old, so we know that the islands must have started to rise after that time. The northern Channel Islands, together with the Santa Monica Mountains and the Coast Range, rose because of compressional forces connected with an event in the geologic history of the area that took place five million years ago. At that time, the Pacific plate captured Baja California and began transporting it northwestward, ramming its northern end into southern California. Transtension ceased, and the resulting compression caused folding and faulting of the rocks and the uplift of the islands. There are large faults running through the centers of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands. These major faults are marked by valleys, owing to rocks in the fault zone being crushed and eroding more easily. Lateral and vertical movement along these faults have made the surface features of the north and south parts of those islands appear to be quite dissimilar. These compressional forces are still on-going and make this area of California an active earthquake area. In 1812, a large earthquake, centered in the Santa Barbara Channel, caused landslides on the islands and is often cited as the reason that the last of the Chumash Indians were persuaded to leave the islands and relocate at the mission in Santa Barbara. The 1925 Santa Barbara; 1971 Sylmar; and the 1994 Northridge earthquakes are all related to these compressive stresses.

One Large Island During the Ice Ages; Mammal Fossils and Marine Terraces
Even in comparatively recent times, the islands have not always looked as they do today. During the last Ice Age, which lasted until about ten thousand years ago, sea level was about 400 feet lower than it is today. The four northern islands that are now separated by water were once connected into one large island, which geologists have named ‘Santa Rosae’, the nearest point at that time being about five miles from the mainland. Large Columbian mammoths swam to Santa Rosae island and soon, because of isolation and dwindling food supplies, became much smaller. Evidence of these animals has been found as fossils of pygmy mammoths on the islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel.

Because of the continuing uplift of the islands during the last million years and the fluctuating sea level caused by glacial advances and retreats, there is evidence on the islands of ancient shorelines at different elevations. The rise in sea level over the last 10,000 years has caused many of the ancient shorelines to be lost below sea level, but others remain. These ancient shorelines form flat areas of land, called marine terraces. Marine terraces are found at many different elevations, from 20 feet above sea level to as much as 1000 feet above, giving graphic evidence of how the islands have changed in their configuration over time.

Weathering and erosion are natural geologic processes that gradually change the look of the landscape, as rocks are broken up into smaller particles that are carried away by rivers and wind to be deposited elsewhere as sand and gravel. Erosion is slow in areas covered by vegetation and rapid where ground cover is depleted. There were two periods when erosion on the islands was greatly increased. During one of these periods, 15,000 to 10,000 years ago, there was extensive stripping of vegetation by mammoths. One possible reason for mammoth extinction may be this denuding of vegetation. Much more recent is the extensive erosion caused by sheep, cattle, and other feral animals which were introduced on most of the islands over one hundred years ago. During times of food shortage, probably caused by years of drought, sheep ate not only all accessible vegetation, but they also ate the roots. During these periods of denudation, both ancient and modern, the land stripped of its cover eroded very quickly, forming steep canyons through the hillsides and increased deposition of sand on the beaches. Fierce winds, common on the northern islands, blow the beach sand over the island — and the beaches were more extensive during the Ice Age – resulting in vast areas of the islands being covered by sand. In recent times, the erosion caused by sheep on San Miguel island transformed the island into little more than one huge sand dune.

The good news is that the islands have recovered their vegetation where the animals have been removed. On San Miguel Island, which has been sheep free for over forty years, vegetation has spread from the steep canyons, where it was able to survive during the grazing years, and has now recovered nearly the entire island, restoring the island’s natural beauty. More recently, sheep and pigs have been removed from Santa Cruz Island, so we can look forward to a similar reversal of the extensive erosion that is currently in evidence on hillsides there.

Visitors to San Miguel Island have the opportunity to view the caliche ‘forest’, where the root system of vegetation that grew on the island several hundred years ago has been turned into caliche casts and caliche root sheaths

Caliche Casts: Caliche is calcium-carbonate cemented soil that is formed in semi-arid climates. Calcium carbonate is derived by the dissolution of shells and shell fragments that have blown across the island from the beaches, especially during the Ice Age when the sea level was much lower and the beaches were more extensive. Rain is a weak acid, formed by reactions between water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and it is this acid that dissolves the shell fragments. San Miguel has a semi-arid climate; so when it rains, the volume of water is too small to carry dissolved materials away from the area, and they remain in the topsoil. This groundwater dissolves the calcium carbonate from shells in the surface layer and re-precipitates it a little lower in the surface profile, where it will act as a cement, binding the soil material into a hard substance that is called ‘caliche’, or ‘calcrete’, or ‘hardpan’.

On San Miguel Island, the deep root system of trees that grew several hundreds of years ago decomposed, and the molds of the roots filled with the abundant sand that makes up much of the topsoil of the island. The calcium carbonate preferentially cemented the sand-filled molds, possibly because they were more porous and provided an easy pathway for the groundwater.

Caliche Root Sheats: Another form of caliche is where living vegetation, generally a root in the soil, gets a ‘sheath’ of caliche. The living roots may exude a weak acid, or draw soil moisture towards them by capillary action. In either case, a solution of calcium carbonate from the soil is concentrated around the roots which, when precipitated later, forms a sheath of caliche. When the root dies and rots, the sheath will remain, either as a hollow form, or may be filled with sand, which may become a caliche cast, by the method described above. Many such examples of both hollow forms and filled sheaths can be found on San Miguel Island.

The caliche ‘forest’ of San Miguel Island was created when strong winds blew away the uncemented sandy soil surrounding the caliche casts and the root sheaths. The visitor to San Miguel Island is treated to this rare glimpse of a landscape turned inside out — the roots and lower trunks of these ancient plants now stand as ‘forests’.

The mineral chert is an extremely hard material that is found in many places on the islands. Whereas caliche is derived from calcium carbonate in shells, chert forms from very small sea plants, called diatoms, which are made from opaline silica, silicon dioxide. The process by which chert was formed probably took place in the mud at the bottom of the ocean which contained very large numbers of siliceous diatoms and small amounts of calcium carbonate shells and fish bones. Water dissolved some of the silica, which later precipitated out in the form that is called chert. Eventually the mud solidified to form a shale rich in diatoms, with nodules of very hard chert in places. Chert fractures like glass and was used by the Chumash Indians for arrowheads and scraping and cutting tools. Chert on the islands has a light brown color, owing to small amounts of iron impurities. Impurities in chert give it a variety of colors. The black variety is called flint and is colored by inclusions of organic matter. Jasper is the name given to the red-colored variety and is colored by inclusions of an iron oxide mineral, hematite.

The Geologic Future of the Islands
The current compressional regime in our area is expected to last until the San Andreas Fault straightens out from its present bent shape, which might take a few million years. During that time, the islands will continue to rise as uplift continues to be greater than erosion. Earthquakes will continue to be felt, both on the islands and on the mainland. When compression ends, erosion will be the main force, and the islands will gradually erode into the ocean.

Sea level will rise and fall as ice ages come and go. At some times the islands will again be one, as they were during the last ice age. New marine terraces will be cut into the islands.

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Channel Islands National Park geology

Native American History

Home of the Chumash

Archeological evidence indicates that there has been a human presence in the northern Channel Islands for thousands of years. Human remains excavated by archeologist Phil Orr from Arlington Springs on Santa Rosa Island in 1959, recently yielded a radio-carbon date of over 13,000 years of age. Archeological sites on San Miguel Island show continuous occupation from 8,000 – 11,000 years ago.

The native populations of the Channel Islands were primarily Chumash. The word Michumash, from which the name Chumash is derived, means “makers of shell bead money” and is the term mainland Chumash used to refer to those inhabiting the islands. Traditionally the Chumash people lived in an area extending from San Luis Obispo to Malibu, including the four Northern Channel Islands. Today, with the exception of the Islands, Chumash people live in these territories and areas far beyond. Approximately 148 historic village sites have been identified, including 11 on Santa Cruz Island, eight on Santa Rosa Island, and two on San Miguel Island. Due to the lack of a consistent water source, Anacapa Island was likely inhabited on a seasonal basis. A true maritime culture, the Chumash hunted and gathered natural resources from both the ocean and the coastal mountains to maintain a highly developed way of life.

The southernmost park island, Santa Barbara Island, was associated with the Tongva people, also called Gabrieleno, although the Chumash also visited the island. Like the Chumash, they navigated the ocean and traded with their neighbors on the northern islands and the coast. Lacking a steady supply of fresh water, no permanent settlements were ever established on Santa Barbara Island. Tongva/Gabrieleno people lived primarily on the Southern Channel Islands (Santa Barbara, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina and San Clemente islands) and the area in and around Los Angeles.

These earliest inhabitants exploited the rich marine resources. Isolated from the mainland, they navigated between the islands and back and forth to the mainland using tomols. A plank canoe constructed from redwood logs that floated down the coast and held together by yop, a glue-like substance made from pine pitch and asphaltum, and cords made of plant materials and animal sinews, the tomol ranged from eight to thirty feet in length and held three to ten people. Sharkskin was used for sanding, red ochre for staining, and abalone for inlay and embellishment.

The use of the tomol allowed for an elaborate trade network between the islands and mainland, between natives and non-natives, and amongst the island communities themselves. ‘Achum, or shell bead money was “minted” by the island Chumash using small discs shaped from olivella shells and drills manufactured from Santa Cruz Island chert. The shell bead money was exchanged with mainland villages for resources and manufactured goods that were otherwise unavailable on the islands.

Today, the Chumash Maritime Association, in partnership with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park, continues the tradition of the tomol by conducting Channel crossings. Learn more about the Chumash Tomol Crossing.

By the time European explorers arrived in the Santa Barbara Channel, there were some 21 villages on the three largest islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz, with highly developed social hierarchies that featured an upper class of chiefs, shamans, boat builders, and artisans, a middle class of workers, fisherman, and hunters, and a lower class of the poor and outcast. Because of the scarcity of fresh water, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands did not support permanent habitation.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was impressed by the friendliness of the Chumash people he encountered. However, diseases introduced by the European explorers began a decline in the native population. As European colonists began to settle along the coast, introducing new economic enterprises, exploiting the marine resources, and establishing Catholic missions, the native food sources were depleted, native economies were altered, and island populations declined even further. By the 1820s, the last of the island Chumash had moved to the mainland, many of them to the Missions at Santa Ynez, San Buenaventura, and Santa Barbara.

The mission system depended on the use of native labor to propel industry and the economy. The social organization of Chumash society was restructured, leading to the erosion of previous power bases and further assimilation. When California became part of Mexico, the government secularized the missions, and the Chumash sank into the depths of poverty. By the time of the California gold rush, the Chumash had become marginalized, and little was done to understand or help the remaining population.

Today, Chumash community members continue to move forward in their efforts to revive what was becoming a forgotten way of life. Much has been lost, but Chumash community members take pride in their heritage and culture.

With a current population nearly 5,000 strong, some Chumash people can trace their ancestors to the five islands of Channel Islands National Park. The Chumash reservation in Santa Ynez represents the only federally recognized band, though it is important to note that several other organized Chumash groups exist.

The National Park Service invites you to visit Channel Islands National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and other local areas to learn more about the Chumash and other Native American cultures.

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Channel Islands National Park

Park History

How the Channel Islands became a National Park

In order to protect the nationally significant natural, scenic, wildlife, marine, ecological, archeological, cultural, and scientific values of the Channel Islands in the State of California……there is hereby established the Channel Islands National Park.
-Public Law 96-199, signed March 5, 1980

A series of federal and landowner actions have helped to preserve the Channel Islands. Federal efforts began in 1932 when the Bureau of Lighthouses (precursor to the United States Coast Guard) brought Santa Barbara and Anacapa Islands to the attention of the National Park Service (NPS) and proposed that the islands be turned over for national park purposes.

In 1937 biologist Theodore D. A. Cockerell of the University of Colorado, who had been collecting specimens on the islands for several years, wrote an article, planned a book, and tried to get his publications into the hands of people to explain why the islands were considered of unusual interest. He was impressed with the extraordinary importance of the islands for natural history studies and urged the park service to accept a land transfer. Cockerell may well have tipped the balance of opinion towards park service takeover, for in 1938 the NPS made the decision to take the excess lighthouse property and ask for national monument status.

On April 26, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a proclamation designating Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands as Channel Islands National Monument. The first words of the opening paragraph of the proclamation explained why the land warranted preservation, and read, “Whereas certain public islands lying off the coast of Southern California contain fossils of Pleistocene elephants and ancient trees, and furnish noteworthy examples of ancient volcanism, deposition, and active sea erosion, and have situated thereon various other objects of geological and scientific interest . . .”

President Roosevelt believed that gradual recovery of the islands’ natural characteristics could only be effected by a good management plan, one the NPS was obliged to carry out in accordance with its traditional duties to preserve resources in their natural condition. Geology received special mention in the proclamation. The new Channel Islands National Monument was placed under the supervision of the superintendent of Sequoia National Park.

After a visit to the islands in 1946, Thomas Vint, Chief Landscape Architect for the NPS, was so impressed with the ocean life and underwater world of the islands he recommended that the monument should extend offshore to protect the underwater life. On February 9, 1949, President Harry S. Truman signed Proclamation No. 2825, which added 17,635 acres to the park. The proclamation stipulated addition of “the area within one nautical mile of the shoreline of Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands.”

In 1957 management of the monument was transferred to Cabrillo National Monument. Don Robinson, a ranger who had worked at Cabrillo since the 1940s, became superintendent of the combined monuments.

In February 1961, President John F. Kennedy sent a special message to Congress about natural resources. He observed that “America’s health, morale, and culture have long benefited from our national parks and forest [but they are] not now adequate to meet the needs of a fast-growing and more mobile population.” He urged Congress to “enact legislation leading to the establishment of seashore and shoreline areas” and urged the Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, to conduct a survey to determine where additional seashore parks should be proposed.

The Santa Barbara News-Press printed the President’s remarks and among other backers recommended the Channel Islands for a national park. Editor Thomas Storke urged California’s senators to lead the way and opened correspondence with an old friend of his, James K. Carr, Undersecretary of the Interior. Included in the park would be Santa Barbara, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel Islands.
Finding the right time to move in Washington combined with the difficulty of finding an agreement with the private owners of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands put off submission of a bill until 1963, when California Senator Clair Engle backed a bill for a Channel Islands National Seashore rather than Park. In this way the government would not need to acquire all of the private property. No action was taken. In 1966 five bills came before the House on the matter;in 1970, two came before the Senate. Momentum slowed as the debate moved into the decade of the 1970s.

In May 1963 the Department of the Navy and Department of the Interior entered a Memorandum of Agreement for the “protection of natural values and historic and scientific objects” on San Miguel. However, both parties recognized the priority of military uses and, therefore ownership stayed with the Navy and San Miguel was not opened for public recreational purposes.

Channel Islands National Monument finally received its own headquarters and superintendent in May 1967. Donald Robinson was called upon to be the superintendent, where he served until February 1974. About a year after Robinson took his post, Island Packers Company began to offer public transportation to the monument.

William H. Ehorn became the monument’s superintendent in June 1974 and would help guide the planning and creation of Channel Islands National Park and establish the foundation of the new park during its first ten years in existence.

In 1977 Senator Alan Cranston and Congressman Anthony Beilenson introduced bills in the Senate and House, respectively, which would authorize Channel Islands and Santa Monica Mountains National Park. Neither passed, and so on March 14, 1979, Congressman Robert J. Lagomarsino introduced a bill creating Channel Islands National Park.

With the help of Cranston and Congressman Phillip Burton of San Francisco, the bill passed the House that summer and the Senate approved it in October. President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation, Public Law 96-199, on March 5, 1980. The new national park would include Santa Barbara and Anacapa Islands (the former Channel Islands National Monument) and add Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel Islands, the latter to remain under the ownership of the U. S. Navy but managed by the NPS.

Although included within the boundaries of the park, both Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands remained private holdings. It was not until December 1986 that the federal government purchased Santa Rosa Island from Vail and Vickers. Ten percent of Santa Cruz Island’s private holdings were purchased from the Gherini family during the 1990s. In 2000 The Nature Conservancy donated 8,500 acres of its holdings on Santa Cruz Island to the NPS resulting in 24 percent public ownership of the island. These acquisitions have placed all of the park islands in conservation ownership.

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The best things to do in Channel Islands National Park

Interpretive Programs



Backcountry Camping









Whale Watching

Seal and Sea Lion Viewing

Bird Watching

Wildflower Viewing

Channel Islands Live

From Shore to Sea Lectures

national park guides


Visit the islands in spring to see an array of wildflowers

Channel Islands National Park supports a diverse terrestrial flora, including many rare, relict, and endemic species, as well as many nonnative species. Numerous plants are rare on the islands but have a wider distribution on the mainland. On the other hand, due to environmental conditions and isolation from the mainland, many of the plants that are native on the California mainland do not grow here. A total of about 790 plant taxa, including species, subspecies, varieties, and forms, have been identified in the park, of which about 578 are native and 205 are nonnative.

Each island supports a unique assemblage of vegetative communities, which differ due to climate, microhabitats, topography, geology, soils, plant colonization history, isolation, and land use history. Many of the islands’ native vegetative communities have been greatly altered by people and the introduction of nonnative species and are in various stages of recovery. The major vegetative community types on the islands include coastal dune, coastal bluff, coastal sage scrub, grasslands, chaparral, island oak woodlands, mixed hardwood woodlands, pine stands, and riparian areas. Currently, the most extensive vegetation communities on the islands are grassland and coastal sage scrub with significant areas of chaparral on Santa Cruz Island, and to a lesser degree, on Santa Rosa Island. Various phases of coastal bluff scrub constitute the next largest category. Mixed broadleaf woodland stands, oak woodlands, and pine stands are scattered throughout on sheltered slopes and canyons, or on ridges exposed to frequent moist fogs. Smaller but no less significant vegetation communities include coastal dune, baccharis scrub, caliche scrub, and wetlands.

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Animal Life

The Channel Islands are the only place the Island Fox can be found

A variety of organisms can be found on and around the Channel Islands, from top predators like bald eagles and sharks, to intertidal residents such as seastars and barnacles, to the tiniest parasites living on other animals and plants. For this page we have organized the information into birds, marine animals, terrestrial animals, and paleo animals, although many animals utilize resources from both the ocean and the land.

Because of their isolation and remote nature, the Channel Islands support fewer native animal species than similar habitats on the mainland. Species that reached the islands were aerial, such as birds and bats, or rafted across the water on debris and other material. Over time some vertebrate species evolved into distinct subspecies on the islands. For example, the deer mouse and island fox are recognized as distinct subspecies on each of the islands they occur. A total of 23 endemic terrestrial animals have been identified in the park, including 11 land birds, that are Channel Island subspecies or races.

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Hiking Trails

The best hikes in Channel Islands National Park

Many trails and roads traverse the islands, providing visitors with spectacular hiking opportunities. These trails and roads range from the maintained, relatively flat, signed trails of Anacapa to the unmaintained, rugged, mountainous, unsigned paths of Santa Rosa.

Please click on the links below for maps and descriptions of island trails. In addition, trail maps, guides, and topographic maps are available at park visitor centers and at island bulletin boards.

Hiking Safety
Hikers need to assume individual responsibility for planning their trips and hiking safely. To increase your odds of a safe hike, decrease your disturbance to wildlife, and lessen damage to resources, visitors should be in good physical condition and must follow the regulations and guidelines in Laws and Policies and Limiting Your Impact as well as those listed below:

Stay on trails and roads while hiking-avoid animal trails which are narrow, uneven, unstable and dangerous.
Cliff edges should be avoided at all times since they tend to be crumbly and unstable. Stay well back. Children should be supervised at all times by an adult.
Carry plenty of water-one quart for short walks, more for longer hikes.
Hikers should never hike alone-use the buddy system. This allows someone to go for help if you encounter trouble.
Be aware of poison oak, “jumping” cholla cactus, ticks, and scorpions. Poison oak can be identified by its clusters of three shiny leaflets. Some ticks carry disease; check your clothing and exposed skin after hiking. Learn how to prevent tick-borne illness at Ticks.
In order to help prevent wildfires, do not smoke on trails or in brush areas. Smoking is allowed only on beaches or other designated areas.
In departing from the islands, visitors are responsible for meeting the boat concessionaire on time. Be aware of departure time by asking the ranger or concessionaire employees.
Hantavirus is present in island deer mouse populations. This is a potentially fatal disease and some basic precautions should be taken.

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