Channel Islands National Park

Santa Barbara Island

Santa Barbara Island lies far south of the other park islands. Small, about 260 hectares (640 acres), and triangular, its steep cliffs rise to a marine terrace topped by two peaks. The highest point, Signal Peak, is 194 meters (635 feet) in elevation.

Santa Barbara Island was named by Sebastian Vizcaino, who arrived here on December 4, 1602 -- Saint Barbara's Day. Because of a lack of fresh water, Indians did not reside on the island, but they occasionally stopped there on journeys to other islands. Not until the 20th century was Santa Barbara Island settled to any extent. During the 1920's, farming, grazing, intentional burning by island residents, and the introduction of rabbits severely damaged the native vegetation. During World War II the U.S. Navy used the island as an early warning outpost, and constructed the Quonset hut now used as the ranger station and visitor center. Though non-native grasses including oats, barley, and brome dominate the landscape, with protection and encouragement, the native vegetation is recovering. With the rabbits now removed, stands of giant coreopsis are thriving. In places this sunflower blankets the island with tiny, bright yellow flowers.

California sea lions and, in winter, elephant seals, breed on the island. Bird-watching is superb. Western gulls nest in abundance, and occasionally brown pelicans nest here. Land birds, including barn owls, American kestrels, horned larks, and meadowlarks also nest here. Although not commonly seen, the island deer mouse, and the island night lizard, a threatened species, live on the island.

Santa Barbara Island offers nine kilometers (5.5 miles) of trails to explore. A good place to start is the Canyon View Self-guided Nature Trail near the ranger station and campground. A trail booklet enables you to learn about most of the island's interesting features. Then you can explore the other trails on your own. A park ranger stationed on the island interprets its features and enforces rules and regulations. There is no telephone, but in emergencies the ranger has radio communications with park headquarters.

Camping is allowed only in the campground. Reservations are required (no fee) and you must obtain a permit in advance from park headquarters. Tables and latrines are available. Campers must bring their own food, fuel, shelter, and water. Bring a tent that can be securely anchored against heavy winds and rain.

There are no shade trees on the island; bring a hat and a sunscreen. A pack-in, pack-out trash policy is in effect; please take with you whatever you brought onto the island.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 25 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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