Channel Islands National Park

Santa Cruz Island
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Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park.
Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park. (Lucidio Studio Inc./Photographer's Choice/Getty)

The largest and most diverse of the islands within the park boundary, Santa Cruz Island is about 39 kilometers (24 miles) long. Its land area is approximately 249 square kilometers (96 square miles). The central valley's north slope is a rugged ridge; the south slope is an older and more weathered ridge. At 730 meters (2,400 feet), the highest of all Channel Island mountains is found here. Santa Cruz Island's 124 kilometer (77 mile) varied coastline has steep cliffs, gigantic sea caves, coves, and sandy beaches. The shoreline cliffs, beaches, offshore rocks, and tide pools provide important breeding habitat for colonies of nesting sea birds and diverse plants and animals. The varied topography and ample freshwater support a remarkable array of flora and fauna—more than 600 plant species, 140 land bird species, and a small, distinctive group of other land animals. Of the 85 plant species endemic to the Channel Islands, nine occur only on Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Island ironwood, the island oak, the island fox, scrub jay, and other distinctive plant and animal species have adapted to the island's unique environment. To biologists, Santa Cruz is especially significant for its diversity of habitat, greater than any of the other Channel Islands.

Chumash Indians inhabited Santa Cruz Island for more than 6,000 years. When Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo arrived in 1542, as many as 2,000 Chumash Indians lived here. Ranching began on the island in 1839, with a Mexican land grant to Andres Castillero. Since that time the entire island has been privately owned. In 1988 the Nature Conservancy acquired the western nine-tenths of the island, managed as the Santa Cruz Island Preserve.

Unless you are on a boat trip authorized by the Nature conservancy, you may not land on Santa Cruz without a permit.


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