Channel Islands National Park
And Marine Sanctuary

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The Channel Islands National Park consists of five islands off the Southern California coast. Often called the North American Galapagos, the Channel Islands are home to over 145 species found nowhere else in the world!

The islands protected in the
Park and Sanctuary are:

Anacapa Island
Santa Cruz Island
Santa Rosa Island
San Miguel Island
Santa Barbara Island

Channel Islands National Park recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Designated a US National Park on March 5, 1980, it's a magnificent national treasure.

All Photos © Doug Mangum Pause the slideshow by moving your pointer over the photo.

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary extends from mean high tide to six nautical miles offshore the National Park. Here is a really interesting interactive, animated map showing the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary boundaries.

The adventurous souls who take the time and make the crossing to Channel Islands National Park are richly rewarded. Over 175 miles of stunning California coastline, just waiting to be explored.

There's Lots To Do & Plenty To See

The best way to begin planning your Channel Island trip is to decide on an activity. If you already know what you want to do on the islands, follow this link to plan your island trips.

Do you want to go wildlife watching on the boat, or do something a little more active? Maybe you'd like to spend the weekend camping out there...

Here are some ideas of what you can do in Channel Islands National Park:


Bald Eagle Web Cam

Bald Eagle Web Cam - One of the most awesome sites in the Channel Islands National Park can be viewed right from the comfort of your own home! Watch to see bald eagle chicks hatch, grow up and take their first flights. NPS Photo


Picnicking in Channel Islands

Picnicking - Picnic tables are available on all islands except San Miguel. Pack a lunch. Bring plenty to drink, and enjoy being "away from it all" for the afternoon. NPS Photo


Hiking in Channel Islands

Hiking - There are easy to strenuous hiking trails on each island. Click on the island links above to access specific hiking trails maps. Photo © Doug Mangum


Camping in Channel Islands National Park

Camping - Available year-round, there is one campground on each island. Visit the individual island for more information. Backcountry camping is available year-round on Santa Cruz Island and from August 15 through December 31 on Santa Rosa Island. Photo © Doug Mangum


Kayaking in Channel Islands

Boating & Kayaking - This is a great way to see multiple islands during your excursion. Due to challenging and quickly-changing weather and ocean conditions, I recommend you go with a local expert, for safety's sake. Photo © Doug Mangum


Snorkeling in Channel Islands

SCUBA Diving & Snorkeling - Some of the best underwater exploration in the world is right here in Channel Islands National Park. These activities are best around Anacapa & Eastern Santa Cruz Island. Let one of our local diving experts show you around. Photo © Doug Mangum


Kayak Fishing in Channel Islands

Fishing - To fish in the Channel Islands National Park you must have a valid California fishing license. Fishing in the Marine Sanctuary waters is prohibited, but there are plenty of places to fish outside the protected waters. Bechers Bay on Santa Rosa Island is one of the best surf-fishing places in the park. Photo © Doug Mangum


California Surfer

Surfing - The surf is best along the western Channel Islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz. Transportation by private boat is the best way to reach these remote areas. NPS Photo



Seastars in Tidepools

Tidepooling - Explore the intertidal zone between land and sea. Frenchy's Cove on Anacapa Island is a great place for tidepooling. The isolation of these pristine island tidepools encourages an abundance of intertidal life. The tide needs to be low for the best viewing. November - March is the best time for tidepooling. Here are a few more tide pool tips from my friend who has a website about Northern California. NPS Photo


Dolphins in Santa Barbara Channel

Whale & Dolphin Watching - Rare Blue Whales & Humpback Whales migrate through the channel from July - September. See Gray Whales here from late-December through March. Dolphins swim in these waters year-round. Photo © Doug Mangum.


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Seal & Sea Lion Viewing - California sea lions and harbor seals are seen in abundance on the shores of Channel Islands National Park. The isolation of San Miguel makes it an ideal breeding ground for more pinniped species than any other place on the planet. Photo © Doug Mangum


Endemic Islands Scrub Jay

Bird Watching - The Channel Islands are home to the largest breeding colonies of seabirds in southern California. Shore bird viewing is best done on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa or San Miguel Islands. The Island scrub jay exists no where else in the world except Santa Cruz Island. Photo © Doug Mangum


Wildflowers on the Channel Islands

Wildflower Viewing - With normal rainfall, peak blooming season is late winter through spring. The farther east and south the island is, the earlier the blooming season. The best wildflower displays are on Santa Barbara, Anacapa and San Miguel Islands. Photo © Doug Mangum


Weddings in the Channel Islands

Special Use Permits are available for special events and group gatherings (25 or more), like weddings, public assembly, and non-profit activities. For more information about obtaining a special use permit, contact the park's Chief Ranger at (805) 658-5717. NPS Photo



The Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary depends on what you want to do there. Every season has something unique to offer. Here's a fun interactive website about the seasons in the Channel Islands.

Spring

  • Days lengthen and it starts to warm up.
  • Visitation increases to Channel Islands National Park this time of year.
  • The weather may be foggy or windy, and not too stormy.
  • Grasses turn green and wildflowers bloom.
  • Baby marine life is all around.
  • March is the end of gray whale migration.

Summer

  • Summer is perfect for kayaking, snorkeling, SCUBA, surfing, or sailing.
  • Most people visit Channel Islands National Park from June - August.
  • See rare blue whales migrating through the channel from July - August.
  • Humpback whales are migrating this time of year, too.
  • June is usually foggy.
  • The calmest winds and sea conditions often occur August through October.

Fall

  • Considered to be even better for water sports than summer.
  • Winds are calmer and visibility can be as much as 100 feet.
  • Fall bird migration begins.
  • The days are still sunny and warm.
  • The park is much less crowded this time of year.
  • Rare blue and humpback whale migration ends in September.

Winter

  • Trips to Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands only from December - March.
  • Gray whale migration begins in late-December.
  • Seals begin to pup and California brown pelicans begin nesting.
  • November - March at low tide is the best time for tidepooling.
  • After the rains, the hills begin turning green and the wildflower show begins.

Channel Islands History

During the last ice age, the four Northern Channel Islands were a single landmass just 4.7 miles offshore. To see how the Channel Islands may have been formed, watch the animated videos on this website. Really interesting if you like that sort of thing.

Chumash Indian TomolPhoto NOAA

Archeological evidence shows that Native Americans occupied these islands for more than 10,000 years. All natives were removed in the early 1800s to make way for European ranching operations.

Scorpion Ranch, Santa Cruz IslandPhoto NPS

More than 200 years of sheep- and cattle-grazing had a devastating effect on the islands. After years of ecological restoration, preservation efforts are beginning to pay off and the island habitats are becoming more balanced. Native plants and animals are beginning to thrive again, as non-native plants and animals are removed.

For more information about these restoration efforts, you'll enjoy these videos: Restoring Balance on Anacapa Island and Restoring Balance on Santa Cruz Island.

The three Southern Channel Islands not included in the National Park are:
San Nicholas & San Clemente Islands, controlled by The US Navy, and Santa Catalina Island California, now a vacation resort off the coast of Los Angeles.

Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary protects a wealth of natural resources for future generations to enjoy. Take advantage of this beautiful national park the next time you visit Santa Barbara County. Begin planning your Channel Island trips today!

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Anacapa Island | Santa Cruz Island | Santa Rosa Island | San Miguel Island | Santa Barbara Island


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Many of the beautiful Channel Island photos used in this section have been provided by Doug Mangum. To see more of his work, visit MyChannelIslands.com.