Channel Islands National Park

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Channel Islands National Park
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Satellite view of Channel Islands National Park
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Location of Channel Islands National Park
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Channel Islands National Park (the United States)
Location Santa Barbara County & Ventura County, California, United States
Nearest city Santa Barbara
Coordinates 34°0.5′N119°25.0′W / 34.0083°N 119.4167°W / 34.0083; -119.4167 Coordinates: 34°0.5′N119°25.0′W / 34.0083°N 119.4167°W / 34.0083; -119.4167
Area249,561 acres (1,009.94 km2) [2]
EstablishedMarch 5, 1980 (1980-March-05) [3]
Visitors366,250(in 2018) [4]
Governing body National Park Service
Website Channel Islands National Park
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Map of Channel Islands
A beach in Channel Islands National Park Channel Islands 11.jpg
A beach in Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park consists of five of the eight Channel Islands off the Pacific coast of the U.S. state of California. Although the islands are close to the shore of the densely populated state, they have been relatively undeveloped. The park covers 249,561 acres (100,994 ha), of which 79,019 acres (31,978 ha) are federal land. [2] The Nature Conservancy owns and manages 76% of Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the eight. [5]

Contents

The islands are home to significant natural and cultural resources, resulting in several designations. Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands were made a national monument in 1938. All eight islands became a biosphere reserve under UNESCO in 1976. [6] And five — Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Miguel and Santa Rosa — were made constituent to the new national park on March 5, 1980. [7] [8] Of these, all but Anacapa are in Santa Barbara County, the latter being in Ventura County.

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary encompasses the waters six nautical miles around Channel Islands National Park.

Park purpose

As stated in the foundation document: [9]

The purpose of Channel Islands National Park is to protect and connect the public to the nationally significant natural, scenic, wildlife, marine, ecological, historical, archeological, cultural, and scientific values of the Channel Islands in the state of California.

History

Radiocarbon dating of a fire area near Arlington Canyon on the northwest coast of Santa Rosa Island shows human habitation from at least 37,000 years BP, while a burned mammoth bone was dated at 30,000 years BP. Similar fire areas in the same vicinity were dated at 27,000 years BP and 17,000 years BP, also believed to have been made by man. Additionally, a burned dwarf mammoth in a shell midden was dated to 12,500 years BP. A fire pit in a midden-humus layer was dated at 11,900 years BP, while above this layer was a stone chopper with a butchered and burned mammoth dated 11,800 years BP. Several more fire areas were dated at 11,000 years BP, while human bones, Arlington Springs Man, are dated to 10,000 years BP. A circular fishhook was dated at 4,800 years BP. Huge shell mounds appear at 2,000 years BP, while a camp fire in Skull Gulch was dated at 330 years BP. [10] [11]

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo first observed the islands in 1542. The three northern channel islands were inhabited by an estimated two to three thousand Chumash, with eleven villages on Santa Cruz, eight on Santa Rosa, and two on San Miguel. [12] [13] [14] In 1938 the Santa Barbara and Anacapa islands were designated a national monument. San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands were combined with the monument in 1980 to form modern-day Channel Islands National Park. [13]

Oil spill

On January 28, 1969 an oil rig belonging to Union Oil experienced a blow-out 6 miles (9.7 km) off the coast of California. [15] The resulting spill was, at the time, the largest oil spill to occur in United States territorial waters. Crews took approximately 11 days to seal the rupture using a cement plug, during which approximately 200,000 US gallons (760,000 litres; 170,000 imperial gallons) of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean, creating an oil slick with an area of about 800 square miles (2,100 km2). [13] [16] Following the spill, tides carried the oil onto the beaches of the Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands. [16]

This spill had a large impact on native wildlife of the Channel Islands. Much of the islands' seabird population was affected, with over an estimated 3,600 avians killed. Meanwhile, seals, dolphins and other sea life died and washed ashore on both the islands and the mainland. [16] [17]

This spill is the third largest oil spill in the United States, only surpassed by the Deepwater Horizon and the Exxon Valdez oil spills. [15] It resulted in a 34,000 acres (14,000 ha) expansion of the Department of the Interior buffer zone in the channel and contributed to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. [18]

The State of California Department of Oil and Gas noted 29 natural oil seeps between Point Conception and Rincon Point. The seeps were first noted by Father Pedro Font in 1776. Additionally, tar mounds are concentrated off the coast at Point Conception, Coal Oil Point, and Carpinteria. A natural oil seep also exists off the west coast of San Miguel Island. Finally, the distinctive odor of the petroliferous Monterey Shale is evident on the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island. The Chumash used the tar and oil from these seeps for caulking and adhesives. [11] :1–2

Geography

The islands within the park extend along the Southern California coast from Point Conception near Santa Barbara to San Pedro, a neighborhood of Los Angeles. Park headquarters and the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center are located in the city of Ventura.

The park consists of 249,354 acres (100,910 ha), half of which are under the ocean, and includes the islands of:

Climate

According to the Köppen climate classification system, Anacapa Island has a Warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Csb).

Climate data for Anacapa Island, elevation 36 ft (11 m), 1981-2010 normals, extremes 1981-2019
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °F (°C)81.5
(27.5)
77.8
(25.4)
83.5
(28.6)
90.8
(32.7)
86.0
(30.0)
97.4
(36.3)
85.1
(29.5)
81.6
(27.6)
90.4
(32.4)
92.6
(33.7)
94.1
(34.5)
77.9
(25.5)
97.4
(36.3)
Average high °F (°C)62.4
(16.9)
61.4
(16.3)
62.0
(16.7)
63.6
(17.6)
64.9
(18.3)
66.8
(19.3)
68.8
(20.4)
69.7
(20.9)
70.1
(21.2)
69.0
(20.6)
65.9
(18.8)
61.8
(16.6)
65.6
(18.7)
Average low °F (°C)51.6
(10.9)
52.3
(11.3)
52.4
(11.3)
51.7
(10.9)
54.6
(12.6)
57.3
(14.1)
59.7
(15.4)
60.9
(16.1)
60.7
(15.9)
59.1
(15.1)
55.3
(12.9)
52.0
(11.1)
55.7
(13.2)
Record low °F (°C)37.0
(2.8)
39.5
(4.2)
40.5
(4.7)
39.7
(4.3)
47.6
(8.7)
49.7
(9.8)
53.7
(12.1)
53.1
(11.7)
53.3
(11.8)
47.5
(8.6)
44.6
(7.0)
36.9
(2.7)
36.9
(2.7)
Average precipitation inches (mm)2.70
(69)
3.03
(77)
1.87
(47)
0.72
(18)
0.11
(2.8)
0.01
(0.25)
0.02
(0.51)
0.03
(0.76)
0.35
(8.9)
0.54
(14)
0.96
(24)
1.55
(39)
11.89
(302)
Average dew point °F (°C)45.2
(7.3)
47.0
(8.3)
49.1
(9.5)
49.1
(9.5)
52.9
(11.6)
55.9
(13.3)
58.6
(14.8)
59.6
(15.3)
58.7
(14.8)
55.0
(12.8)
48.4
(9.1)
44.1
(6.7)
52.0
(11.1)
Source: PRISM [19]

Geology

Weaver describes the geologic province of Anacapia as consisting of the islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa, plus the western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains. The province is to the south of the Santa Barbara embayment, and north of the Catalinia geologic province. Mesozoic in origin, the Anacapia province consists of Late Cretaceous to Miocene age marine sedimentary up to 23,000 feet thick, including 8,000 feet of volcanic rocks, overlain by Pleistocene terrace formations. Aligned with the Santa Monica mountains, the Northern Channel Islands form a mountain system 130 miles long. This island chain appears to be a faulted east-west trending anticline. Major faults include the Santa Cruz Island Fault and the Santa Rosa Island Fault. [11] :1,9

A stratigraphic column would start with the oldest rocks, the Santa Cruz Island schist, forming an elongated core of the island, 10 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. This schist is intruded by the metamorphosed Alamos Tonalite, which has been dated 145 Ma. Just to the south of this schist is the Willows Diorite, also of the same age as the tonalite, or Late Jurassic. The only Cretaceous rocks consist of the Jalama Formation, found on San Miguel Island. [11] :11–14,119

Lower Tertiary sequence of rocks are found within the Christi Anticline on the southwestern part of Santa Cruz Island. The sequence includes the Pozo Formation, Canada Formation, Jolla Vieja Formation, and the Cozy Dell Formation. San Miguel and Santa Rosa islands have the Middle to Late Eocene South Point Formation, while the Cozy Dell Formation is present on Santa Rosa, along with the Sespe Formation. [11] :17–19,37,45–46,120–121

Middle Tertiary formations found on Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz include the Vaqueros Formation, while those two islands plus San Miguel have exposures of the Rincon Formation, and Monterey Formation. Santa Rosa and San Miguel have exposures of the basaltic and dacitic San Miguel Volcanics, which include pillow structures, while the San Onofre Breccia is found on Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa. Santa Rosa Island Volcanics consist mainly of basaltic breccia, which erupted about 19 Ma. San Miguel Volcanics consist of basalt and andesite flows, which erupted between 17-18 Ma. Santa Cruz Island (SCI) Volcanics on the north side of the island consist of andesitic flows and volcaniclastics, overlying the San Onofre Breccia, and dated at about 16 Ma. The eruptive center is east of Devils Peak, and juxtaposed against the west-northwest trending strike-slip Santa Cruz Island Fault to the south. These 2400 m of SCI Volcanics have been further subdivide into four members, consisting of the lowermost Griffith Canyon, followed by Stanton Ranch, Devil's Peak, and Prisoner's Harbor, the uppermost. The Griffith Canyon Member consists of basaltic and andesitic epiclastic volcanic breccias. The Stanton Ranch Member consists of andesitic flows, flow breccias, and tuff breccias. The Devil's Peak Member consists of scoriaceous andesitic and dacitic flows. The Prisoner's Harbor Member consists of andesitic and dacitic transitional to rhyolitic flows, flow breccias, and tuffaceous volcaniclastic beds. Middle Miocene Conejo Volcanics correlate with the bulk of Anacapa's lava flows, volcanic and volcaniclastic breccias, which consist of vesicular and porphyritic andesite erupting about 16 Ma. About 1700 m are exposed, with two strata of San Onofre Breccia interbedded at the base. Cores taken from the east end of the island are andesitic in composition. Santa Barbara Island consists of basalt-basaltic andesite and andesite volcanic flows, which erupted 15-17 Ma. [11] :17,48–55,68–69,80–83,91,121–122 [20] [21] [22] [23] [24]

During the Late Pleistocene, all of the islands were much closer to the mainland due to lower sea levels, and between 11,000 and 20,000 years BP, the islands remained connected to each other as Santa Rosae. The Pleistocene mammoths swam to Santa Rosae. However, the pygmy mammoth underwent dwarfing as the Channel Islands became isolated. Another species which became extinct was the "giant" mouse. Mammoth remains include those of Mammuthus columbi , while the remains of Mammuthus exilis have been found on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz, ranging in age from 12,840 to >47,000 YBP. The 1994 Mammuthus exilis discovery on Santa Rosa near Carrington Point, was the first example of an in situ , almost complete, articulated skeleton. [10] :319,320,323 [11] :2,83, [25]

Other geologic features of note on the islands include beachrock, eolianite, and caliche pseudomorphs. [11] :84,105–108

Flora and fauna

Dolphins by Anacapa Island.

More than 2,000 species of plants and animals can be found within the park. [26] However, only three land mammals are native to the islands, one of which is the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) which is known to carry the sin nombre hantavirus. The spotted skunk and Channel Islands fox also are native, with the fox endemic to the islands. The island fence lizard [27] is also endemic to the Channel Islands. [28] Other animals in the park include island scrub jay, harbor seal, California sea lion, island fox, spotted skunk, island night lizard, barn owl, American kestrel, horned lark and meadowlark and California brown pelican. One hundred and forty-five of these species are unique to the islands and found nowhere else in the world. Marine life ranges from microscopic plankton to the endangered blue whale, the largest animal on earth. Archeological and cultural resources span a period of more than 10,000 years.

Headquarters and mainland visitor center

The visitor center is located in the Ventura Harbor. The visitor center contains several exhibits that provide information regarding all five islands, native vegetation, marine life and cultural history. Also, visitors can enjoy a short film, free of charge, that provides an overview of all five islands. The visitor center is open every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas, from 8:30AM–5:00PM. [29] The average annual visitation to the mainland visitor center was around 311,000 in the period from 2009 to 2018, with 366,250 visiting in 2018. [4]

Recreation

Channel Islands National Park recreational activities include backpacking, camping, day hiking, scuba diving, and spearfishing. Channel Islands National Park is renowned for its large number of complex, beautiful sea caves. Kayaking through the sea caves is popular.

Based on ocean conditions and ferry availability, Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island is the most visited area in the park for day and camping visitors. Camping visitors arrive at Prisoners Harbor [30] on the north shore and stay in the valley beyond. A new island visitor center opened at Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island on April 6, 2009. [31]

Although most visitation occurs in the summer, migrating gray whales and spectacular wildflower displays attract visitors in the winter and spring. Autumn is an excellent time to travel to the park, as well as for diving, as the days are usually sunny, with minimal winds and clear ocean water.

It is recommended that inexperienced visitors use caution when visiting the national park due to changing ocean conditions in this unique ecosystem. The National Park Service authorizes a small number of guide and outfitter services. [32]

Visitation to the islands and waters is low, with about 30,000 visitors traveling to the islands, and another 60,000 who only sail within park waters.

Vessels

The CINP unit operates several vessels in the waters of the park, including the following:

See also

Related Research Articles

Santa Barbara County, California County in California, United States

Santa Barbara County, California, officially the County of Santa Barbara, is located in Southern California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 423,895. The county seat is Santa Barbara, and the largest city is Santa Maria.

Anacapa Island Island of the Channel Islands in California, United States

Anacapa Island is a small volcanic island located about 11 miles (18 km) off the coast of Port Hueneme, California, in Ventura County. The island is composed of a series of narrow islets 6 mi (10 km) long, oriented generally east–west and 5 mi (8 km) east of Santa Cruz Island. The three main islets, East, Middle and West Anacapa, are collectively known as The Anacapas by some authors. All three islets have precipitous cliffs, dropping off steeply into the sea.

Channel Islands (California) Archipelago off the coast of southern California, US

The Channel Islands are an eight-island archipelago located within the Southern California Bight in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California. The four Northern Channel Islands are part of the Transverse Ranges geologic province, and the four Southern Channel Islands are part of the Peninsular Ranges province. Five of the islands are within the Channel Islands National Park, and the waters surrounding these islands make up Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The Nature Conservancy was instrumental in establishing the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The islands were inhabited as early as 13,000 years ago, the earliest paleontological evidence of humans in North America. They are the easternmost islands in the Pacific Island group.

Island fox Species of fox

The island fox is a small fox that is endemic to six of the eight Channel Islands of California. There are six subspecies, each unique to the island it lives on, reflecting its evolutionary history. They are generally docile, show little fear of humans, and are easily tamed. Island foxes played an important role in the spiritual lives of native Channel Islanders. They have been likely semi-domesticated as pets, used as pelts, or for other functions, like pest control.

Santa Cruz Island Largest island of the Channel Islands in California, United States

Santa Cruz Island is located off the southwestern coast of Ventura, California, United States. It is the largest island in California and largest of the eight islands in the Channel Islands archipelago and Channel Islands National Park. Forming part of the northern group of the Channel Islands, Santa Cruz is 22 miles (35 km) long and 2 to 6 miles wide with an area of 61,764.6 acres (249.952 km2).

San Miguel Island Island of the Channel Islands in California, United States

San Miguel Island is the westernmost of California's Channel Islands, located across the Santa Barbara Channel in the Pacific Ocean, within Santa Barbara County, California. San Miguel is the sixth-largest of the eight Channel Islands at 9,325 acres (3,774 ha), including offshore islands and rocks. Prince Island, 700 m (2,300 ft) off the northeastern coast, measures 35 acres (14 ha) in area. The island, at its farthest extent, is 8 miles (13 km) long and 3.7 miles (6.0 km) wide.

Transverse Ranges Group of mountain ranges of southern California

The Transverse Ranges are a group of mountain ranges of southern California, in the Pacific Coast Ranges physiographic region in North America. The Transverse Ranges begin at the southern end of the California Coast Ranges and lie within Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties. The Peninsular Ranges lie to the south. The name Transverse Ranges is due to their east–west orientation, making them transverse to the general northwest–southeast orientation of most of California's coastal mountains.

Santa Rosae

Santa Rosae was, before the end of the last ice age, an ancient landmass off the coast of present-day southern California, near Santa Barbara County and Ventura County, of which the northern Channel Islands of California are remnants. At its largest, Santa Rosae was roughly 3-4 times bigger than the northern Channel Islands of today, nearly 125 km long from east to west. Between about 20,000 and 5,000 years ago, Santa Rosae lost about 70% of its land mass to post-glacial rising sea level, leaving behind a vast submerged landscape currently being explored by scientists. San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa Island comprise the unsubmerged portions of Santa Rosae today. This island was about 5 miles offshore. It broke up between about 11,000 and 9,000 years ago, and the present northern Channel Islands took their shape after the continental ice sheets melted and sea levels rose by about 100 meters.

The Arlington Springs man is a set of Late Pleistocene human remains discovered in 1959 on Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands located off the coast of Southern California. The Arlington Springs archeological site is protected within northern Channel Islands National Park, and in Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara Channel Pacific Ocean separating California from northern Channel Islands

The Santa Barbara Channel is a portion of the Southern California Bight and separates the mainland of California from the northern Channel Islands. It is generally south of the city of Santa Barbara, and west of the Oxnard Plain in Ventura County.

Santa Rosa Island (California) Island of the Channel Islands in California, United States

Santa Rosa Island is the second largest of the Channel Islands of California at 53,195 acres. Santa Rosa is located about 26 miles (42 km) off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in Santa Barbara County and is part of Channel Islands National Park.

Island scrub jay Species of bird

The island scrub jay also island jay or Santa Cruz jay is a bird in the genus, Aphelocoma, which is endemic to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Southern California. Of the over 500 breeding bird species in the continental U.S. and Canada, it is the only insular endemic landbird species. The island scrub jay (ISSJ) is closely related to the California scrub jay – the coastal population found on the adjacent mainland – but differs in being larger, more brightly colored, and having a markedly stouter bill. They will bury, or cache, the acorns in the fall and may eat them months later. They also eat insects, spiders, snakes, lizards, mice and other birds' eggs and nestlings.

Pygmy mammoth Species of mammoth

The pygmy mammoth or Channel Islands mammoth is an extinct species of dwarf elephant descended from the Columbian mammoth of mainland North America. This species became extinct during the Quaternary extinction event in which many megafauna species became extinct due to changing conditions to which the species could not adapt. A case of island or insular dwarfism, from a recent analysis in 2010 it was determined that M. exilis was on average, 1.72 m (5.6 ft) tall at the shoulders and 760 kg (1,680 lb) in weight, in stark contrast to its 4.3 m (14 ft) tall, 9,070 kg (20,000 lb) ancestor. Another estimate gives a shoulder height of 2.02 m (6.6 ft) and a weight of 1,350 kg (2,980 lb).

Anacapa Island Light

Anacapa Island Lighthouse is a lighthouse in California, United States, on the entrance to Santa Barbara Channel, California. Constructed in 1912, it was the last major light station built on the west coast. Anacapa and several other islands were collectively designated as Channel Islands National Monument in 1938, though the Coast Guard retained responsibility for the Anacapa lighthouse. Now fully automated and unmanned, the light house still operates, but the National Park Service (NPS) is responsible for Channel Islands National Park.

The giant island deer mouse became extinct approximately 8000 years BP and lived during the late Pleistocene on California’s Channel Islands.

The wildlife of the Channel Islands of California is wide and diverse, including many endemic species. While the land wildlife is slightly limited, there being only one large, naturally predatory, and native mammal, the small island fox, marine life can include anything from kelp forests to great white sharks.

Charles Hillinger was an American journalist. He wrote for the Los Angeles Times from 1946 to 1992, initially as a reporter, and eventually as a feature writer and a columnist. He authored several books, including California Characters: An Array of Amazing People, a collection of his columns.

The geology of California is highly complex, with numerous mountain ranges, substantial faulting and tectonic activity, rich natural resources and a history of both ancient and comparatively recent intense geological activity. The area formed as a series of small island arcs, deep-ocean sediments and mafic oceanic crust accreted to the western edge of North America, producing a series of deep basins and high mountain ranges.

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