This is the audio-only described version of Channel Islands National Park’s official print brochure. It includes text, images, and a map, all of which detail the history and significance of the park and information about planning your visit. Side one includes text and a full-color illustration of the park underwater and above ground. Side two focuses on information about the park and includes a large map, color photos of places within the park and text.
Something draws us to the sea and its islands. Maybe it is the thrill of traveling over water to an unfamiliar land. Or maybe it is 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.
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 Anacapa 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.
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 species to venture into this new territory. Mammoths swam the channel. 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.
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.
A powerful bond between the land and sea controls everything here, from where plants grow to when seals breed. Together, water currents, 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.
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 Chumash 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, missionaries, 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.
By 1822 most Chumash had been moved to mainland missions. Fishing camps and ranching had become economic mainstays by the late 1800s. In the 1900s the military set up lookouts on Anacapa and Santa Barbara and practiced bombing raids on San Miguel. These activities had devastating effects on the island ecology, introducing alien plant and animal species that threatened to destroy the ecological dynamics of the islands. Today, ranching and other commercial and military activities have ceased and the islands are regaining some of their natural diversity.
Protection for the islands began in 1938 when Anacapa and Santa Barbara became Channel Islands National Monument. In 1980 Congress designated San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and the submerged lands and waters within one nautical mile of each island as Channel Islands National Park. The waters extending out six nautical miles from each island are a National Marine Sanctuary. Channel Islands National Park monitors and protects threatened and endangered species, restores ecosystems, and preserves the natural and cultural resources for you and for generations to come.
Illustration caption: This illustration is a composite of the park's five islands.
Overview: The color illustration spans the entire side of side one of the brochure. It is a detailed depiction of the natural and cultural features of the park’s five islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara). While unrealistic in terms of how close together all of the flora, fauna, and activities are placed, this chocked-full illustration depicts the rich diversity within the park.
The left side of the illustration depicts the ocean surface and underwater ocean habitats with a variety of marine animals and plants, including ocean floor, kelp forest, and tidepools. On the horizon are the three terraced islets of Anacapa with brown pelicans flying nearby and a sailboat. The right side of the illustration transitions to the variety of land habitats and animals found on the island including coastal bluffs and cliffs, beaches, wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, and rounded mountains. Recreation activities such as hiking and kayaking are also shown along with historic buildings and prehistoric archeological sites.
Under their own titles, the description of this illustration is divided into descriptions of the left and right sides, with additional titles underneath the descriptions on the left side. These descriptions provide more detail of the environment, species, and activities that are depicted.
Illustration credit: NPS/ Michael Hampshire
The left side of the illustration shows a scuba diver under water floating amid a rich variety of life in a kelp forest that eventually rises on the right side to a tide pool area. Above the kelp forest is the surface of the sea with islands on the horizon.
The tidepool area rises to the right of this ocean scene with a rich variety of barnacles, mussels, anemones, algaes, and surf grass. What follows are the most prominent animals from left to right:
This area, which is featured right above the sea floor underwater, hosts a wide variety of animals. What follows are the most prominent of these animals from left to right:
In the upper left of the illustration is the surface of the ocean, which hosts a wide variety of animals. What follows are the most prominent of these animals from foreground to background:
The right half of the illustration transitions to the variety of land habitats and animals found on the island, including coastal bluffs and cliffs, beaches, wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, and rounded mountains. Recreation activities, such as hiking and kayaking, are also shown along with historic buildings and prehistoric archaeological sites. What follows are the most prominent of these from foreground to background:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Please read the following eleven listed points in their entirety to ensure your visit is safe.
Map description overview: On side two of the brochure, the map image shows the coastline of California curving like a cap above the islands. The mainland coast stretches 60 miles west of Santa Barbara to Point Arguello to Point Mugu 10 miles south of Oxnard. Included on the mainland is the location of the park’s visitor center in Ventura and the Outdoor Santa Barbara visitor center in Santa Barbara.
There are four northern islands labeled left to right (or west to east). They are San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa Islands. There is one southern island labeled Santa Barbara Island. Each Island is surrounded, one nautical mile from their shorelines, by a green line indicating that it is part of Channel Islands National Park. Six nautical miles from the shores, a blue line circles the islands indicating this area as part of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
The greenish, tan islands and mainland contrast with the blue surface of the ocean floor. Unlike most maps, which show water as a flat surface, this map dips all the way down to the ocean floor, as if all the water had drained out of the ocean to reveal the ocean floor's elevation in different areas.
A small inset map at the very top left side of the brochure shows the defined area of the larger map described above. This inset map includes the coast of California from Santa Maria in the north to Long Beach in the south. In addition, to the islands noted above, the map also shows three other southern islands all located below Santa Barbara Island, which are: San Nicolas, below and to the left; San Clemente, directly below; and Santa Catalina, below and to the right. For additional description, go to “Map Legend” and “Map Details.” Additional text about the park is also available under “Marine Protected Areas” and “Islands on the Edge.”
Map credit: NPS
In the lower left corner is the map legend. North is pointing up. The legend includes text which states:
The map is displayed so that one is facing toward the coast of California where visitors disembark. The coast of California runs along the entire top edge of the map. The Santa Ynez Mountains run along most of this coastline. As you continue to move right or east, the map indicates a flat area where the Visitor Center is located, on a low-lying part of Ventura County, close to sea level. Just above that is a flat indented area, which is the rest of Ventura County. Continuing to the southeast is the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The following description details each of the park’s five islands.
Within the park and sanctuary is a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that provide a refuge for sea life and opportunities 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.
The Channel Islands lie in a region between the mainland coast and the deep ocean called the Continental Shelf. The sea floor is composed of canyons, banks (underwater plateaus), escarpments, sea mounts, and deep basins (Santa Cruz Basin is deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon). This topography—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 connected 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.
A color photograph and text about each of the five islands of Channel Islands is presented under its own heading. All five photos are credited to Tim Hauf Photography.
Photo caption: Each year over 100,000 seals and sea lions breed and haul out on San Miguel.
Photo description: In the foreground, a seagull, with a white breast and gray back, is perched on a rock overlooking a white sandy beach flanked with blue-green water and filled with hundreds of pinnipeds, which are either seals or sea lions, both of which are shaped like enormous brown slugs. The beach extends to two large rocks in the background.
Text: This westernmost island receives the brunt of the northwesterly 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.
Photo caption: Rare Torrey pines grow only near San Diego and at Bechers Bay.
Photo description: Looking out from under a canopy of pine trees on a hill, a stretch of coastline is seen, curving gently toward the horizon. Low, green grass-covered hills flank the bay.
Text: 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.
Photo caption: From the hills above Smuggler’s Ranch you can see Anacapa in the distance.
Photo description: From low rolling, green grass-covered hills the view extends across a shallow bay with a small conical island on the horizon. Large trees fill the small canyon in the middle of the photo while a historic olive tree orchard extends up the hillside.
Text: 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.
Photo caption: Sunrise lights up Inspiration Point and Middle and West Anacapa.
Photo description: From a high ridge with green-leaved and flowering yellow daisy-like Coreopsis, a long string of smaller islands curves away in the distance, surrounded by ocean.
Text: 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.
Photo caption: Giant coreopsis (tree sunflowers) make a showy display at Arch Point.
Photo description: Mounds of coreopsis—with green leaves and bright yellow, daisy-like flowers—cover a hill high above the ocean. In the distance, it looks as if a “window” has been cut through the bluff that stretches out to sea, creating a “bridge” across the top.
Text: 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.