|Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz Island is located about 20
miles from Ventura Harbor. The boat trips takes about an hour to east Santa
Cruz Island Scorpion Anchorage, or one hour and twenty minutes to Mid Santa
Cruz Island Prisoners Harbor.. Santa Cruz is the largest and most
diverse island in the Channel Islands chain. It features two mountain
ranges, canyons and a rugged shoreline with pebbled beaches. Over 600
plant species, 120 bird species (including the endemic Island scrub jay) and
the largest and deepest sea cave in the world exist on Santa Cruz Island.
Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island is
the largest and deepest sea cave in the world. It earns its name from the
colorful rocks and lichens that cover its surface. The cave reaches a
quarter of a mile into the side of the island. The entrance ceiling is an
immense 160 feet high. In the spring a waterfall curtains the mouth of the
cave. Kayak tours are available on the island. Arrangements are made through
Island Packers, islandpackers.com.
East Santa Cruz Island Scorpion Anchorage features a small pier at
Scorpion Anchorage. Visitors step from the boat onto a ladder and climb a
few rungs to the pier. The beach is a mix of sand and cobble with a small
shallow kelp forest near the pier. Facilities include picnic tables both on
the beach or in the tree shaded area near the historic Scorpion Ranch
buildings. There are outhouse style restroom facilities near picnic areas
and in the campground.
Mid Santa Cruz Island Prisoners
Harbor features a ladder from the boat requiring visitors to climb
several ladder rungs to reach the top of the pier. There is a cobble beach
with a small estuary at the eastern end that is frequented by many types of
shorebirds. There are remnants of the old ranch site that was named La
Playa, but the actual ranch house was demolished in the 1960’s. Picnic
tables are set up near the beach and also under shade trees adjacent to the
beach. A single outhouse style restroom rounds out the facilities available
at Prisoners Harbor.
This area is directly on the property line for the two landholders of Santa
Cruz Island, The National Park, and the Nature Conservancy. There are
several roads leading into the National Park property and all can be
accessed for hiking. Hiking on the Nature Conservancy (TNC) side is limited
to permit holders and/or guided hikes with an Island Packer naturalist.
Hikers with permits are allowed only on the trail known as the TNC
Prisoners’ to Pelican Interpretive Trail. This trail is steep and narrow in
some places so you will want to pack your water, snacks and other supplies
in a backpack or similar style bag. Visitors traveling with Island Packers
may obtain a trail permit from the Island Packers receptionist when checking
in the morning of the trip.
The Channel Islands are the most
important nesting grounds for seabirds on the West Coast. Though damaged by
decades of cattle and sheep ranching, the islands still sport an impressive
array of native plant life. Whales, orcas, and dolphins pass offshore. Tide
pools, a vanishing habitat on the mainland, are doing well on Channel
The national park occupies five of the eight islands in the chain, as well
as much of its offshore waters. The islands are Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa
Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. Each island has its own character.
Anacapa is the entry point, tiny, popular, and closest to shore. Santa Cruz
is the largest and most biologically diverse; it is largely owned by the
nonprofit The Nature Conservancy. Santa Rosa is the most historically
interesting, and the most wide open of the larger islands for those who want
to do some independent exploring. San Miguel has (arguably) the best hiking
as well as terrific wildlife. Tiny Santa Barbara is the most isolated, a
place to go to be alone in a wild, windy ocean.
Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara,
Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands are accessible by booking seats on chartered
boats departing daily from Ventura and Santa Barbara or other coastal cities
which offer scuba, fishing and excursion charters. If you are short on
time, half-day non land excursions are also available in Ventura on the Whale
Watching trips. But the good news is that if the whales are migrating, the
captain of your day-trip charter will stop to watch and take photos. California's natural splendor
is what you'll discover on a trip to the islands where you may view cormorants, seals, sea lions
and endangered California brown pelicans near a giant kelp forests
shelter with more than 1,000 species of ocean life.
For information, write: Superintendent, Channel
Islands National Park, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, CA 93001-4354
or call, 805-658-5730. Request the brochure: Channel Islands National Park
California, produced by National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior
Rangers conduct walks on
San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands. Call (805) 658-5711 for tour information
or (805) 964-7839 for Santa Cruz island.
Visitor Center in Channel Island
Harbor, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, contains the park headquarters, featuring
exhibits, hands on displays and slide and film shows about the islands.
Mon.- Fri. 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Sat.&Sun. 8 am - 5 pm (805) 658-5730