Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park: July 13, 2022


Morning at Scorpion Anchorage

Here’s a real duh, Channel Islands is the least visited National Park in California. I’d venture to say most people don’t even know it’s a National Park. There are eight islands in the chain, five are part of the National Park. In 1980, it went from National Monument status to National Park. Santa Cruz is the largest island. It is 24 miles long and 2 to 6 miles wide. The highest point is Devil’s Peak at 2439 feet.

I had two things that I really wanted to see, the Island Fox and an Island Scrub Jay. We saw both. The Island Scrub Jay was number 318 on my life bird list. And as a bonus we saw a Bald Eagle. What surprised us was the amount of plants endemic to the island. It was beautiful, and must really be something in the spring.

As we were boarding the ferry with sixty other folks we were kind of bummed about the amount of people. It’s not what we envisioned, but much to our delight, once we docked and separated into the two groups, kayakers/snorkelers and hikers, there were only seven hikers! We walked around for five hours, all by ourselves, taking it all in. It was amazing. Another nice thing, hardly any trash at all, as close to pristine as one can probably get in this world.


The day adventure begins, departing Ventura Harbor. The ferry ride was just a little over an hour.


Channel Islands Marine Wildlife Institute rescued this harbor seal three months ago. He was on the boat ride with us. We don’t know the specifics except that he was injured and malnourished. He’s now healthy and ready to be released.


A pod of Common Dolphins followed the boat for awhile


Greene’s Dudleya, this was so exciting for us! We love dudleyas and have different species planted in our yard and in pots. This is considered a rare plant and is endemic to the Channel Islands.


Cliff Desert Dandelion


Island Bristleweed, a rare species of shrub endemic to the Channel Islands. It was quite striking and beautiful. 


Island Fox, it only lives on six of the eight Channel Islands. It’s about the size of a house cat. We were lucky enough to see four of them.


Amelia looking up at Montañon Ridge


Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat, another shrub endemic to the Channel Islands


Looking east on the Scorpion Canyon Loop trail as the fog was clearing and Anacapa Island coming into view


Looking west on the Scorpion Canyon Loop trail


Silver Lupine


California Fushsia


A half a mile from the pier is a campground with 31 sites in a grove with the largest Eucalyptus trees we’ve ever seen. The trees were planted in the 1880s for shade, fuel, pier pilings, and other building projects. There’s also two huge piles of cut down trees. That’s were this pic is from. The squiggly lines are made by Eucalyptus Longhorned Borers that usually attack stressed or damaged trees.


Fog lichens (Niebla homalea), trippy stuff, it looks like it belongs under the sea


Here’s another look at the fog lichens. They form small fist sized tufts typically on coastal rocks. Their shrubby growth form intercepts wind-blown fog, enabling these lichens to become hydrated and begin photosynthesizing without rain.


Scorpion Anchorage in the afternoon, you can see all the kayakers & snorkelers on the beach and in the water. The ship is the ferry we came over on and the pointy island in the distance is Anacapa.


Northern view on the Cavern Point Loop


Cavern Point looking west

There’s so many places to see, and the clock is ticking, but if the opportunity arose, we’d visit the Channel Islands National Park again, a different island, and in the springtime.

7 thoughts on “Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park: July 13, 2022

  1. Super fun! Loved camping and kayaking there years ago but wished we’d known about the flora and fauna beyond the beach. Hiked but kept running into Nature Conservancy so would love to go back and pick some of your trails. 🙂 Glad you go out there and that you share your adventures with us.

  2. Used to visit the channel island when I was working for Neushal Mariculture to collect seaweed. Of course we’d have extra tanks to scout for lobsters and I brought my windsurfer once. Love the islands and so glad you were able to spend time there.

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