Channel Islands National Park

Anacapa Island
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Iceplant and coreopsis on Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park.
Iceplant and coreopsis on Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park. (Joe Sohm/Photodisc/Getty)

The closest island to the mainland, Anacapa lies 18 kilometers (11 miles) southwest of Oxnard, and 22 kilometers (14 miles) from Ventura. Almost 8 kilometers (5 miles) long, its total land area is 290 hectares (about 1 square mile). Anacapa is composed of three small islets inaccessible from each other except by boat. For much of the year the island vegetation looks brown. With winter rains, the plants emerge from summer's dormancy and turn green. Sea mammals are often seen around Anacapa's shores. January through March is gray-whale-watching season, and migrating whales can be seen swimming along their 16,000 kilometer (10,000 mile) migration route. Western gulls, cormorants, black oyster catchers, and endangered California brown pelicans may be seen year-round. West Anacapa's slopes are the primary West Coast nesting site for the brown pelican. To protect the pelican rookery, West Anacapa is a Research Natural Area closed to the public. Except for Frenchy's Cove, no landings are permitted on West Anacapa without written permission from the park superintendent.

Transportation to Anacapa is provided by the park concessioner. Picnicking is allowed, but please carry all trash off the island. There are latrines but no fresh water. Near the small visitor center, a 2.4 kilometer (1.5 mile) self-guiding nature trail explores East Anacapa. Please stay on trails and obey closure signs for your safety and to protect fragile island resources. Beaches on East Anacapa are not accessible, but on calm summer days you may swim in the landing cove. At West Anacapa's Frenchy's Cove there is a beach and snorkeling area. Picnicking is permitted. The area is noted for the tidepools on the island's south side. The tide pools at Frenchy's Cove are protected—nothing may be taken.

Many Scuba and skin diving areas around Anacapa reveal the island's beauty and varied marine life. Divers may photograph the undersea life and explore caves, coves, and shipwrecks. The steamer Winfield Scott grounded and sank off Middle Anacapa in 1853. Remains of the wreck can still be seen. Please take only photographs—submerged cultural and historical resources are protected by law. Souvenirs may not be taken. The wreck of the Winfield Scott prompted the establishment of a navigation aid on East Anacapa Island. A 50-foot tower was built supporting an acetylene beacon. This was replaced in 1932 with the present lighthouse and facilities. Do not visit the lighthouse. Severe hearing damage may result. The original lighthouse lamp is on display in the Anacapa visitor center. The church-like structure houses the island's water supply because no permanent source of freshwater is available. Other structures housed the lighthouse personnel and, today, are converted into ranger residences and the visitor center.

Evidence of the Coast Guard's presence is found all over the island, from the trail system that was once the island road to roof tiles found along the trail—evidence of erosion containment efforts. Fishing requires a California fishing license. Camping on Anacapa is restricted to the campground on East Anacapa. Reservations are required (no fee), and you must obtain a permit in advance from park headquarters. Camping information is available at the mainland visitor center. The ranger on East Anacapa provides information and emergency assistance. There is no telephone, but in an emergency the ranger can radio the mainland. Guided walks and evening programs are available.


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