Channel Islands is a strand of eight islands off the coast of California that are apart of three California counties; Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, and Los Angeles County. Santa Barbara County has jurisdiction over four islands; San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Santa Barbara. Ventura County has jurisdiction over Anacapa and San Nicolas islands. Los Angeles County has jurisdiction over the final two; San Clemente and Santa Catalina islands.
There are five islands that consist of the Channel Islands National Park; San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara. Surrounding them is the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary six nautical miles (6.9 miles, 11 kilometers) around the islands. Marine Sanctuaries are areas that restrict commercial and recreational fishing under different categories.
Originally the northern four channel islands were one landmass 10,000 years ago called Santa Rosae. Around this time the Chumash Native American occupied the northern islands and the Tongva settled on the southern islands.The Chumash people are those that brought over the ancestor to the island fox; a now special endangered species found only on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Santa Catalina, San Nicolas, and San Clemente Islands.
By the 19th century the Spanish took over and started using the islands for ranching and fishing purposes. This period of ranching included bringing over sheep, pigs, cattle, elk, and horses to a few of the islands cause major ecological damage to the islands of which the repercussions are still visible.
The islands are of a great and important resource to better improve conservation biology and ecology restoration techniques. The islands are isolated from many problems that mainland biomes face when it comes to human interaction. This helps researchers better understand what California would look like had it not been urbanized and developed.
There are many things you can do in the National Park today such as hiking, kayaking, sailing, or even volunteering with the National Parks Service and other organisations to help with restoration efforts. The Channel islands are a great place to get involved with nature and witness it close up and personal. From whale and dolphin sightings to the island scrub jay and island fox there are many species of animals to learn about and enjoy. Many enjoy taking in the sites and talking to docents about the detailed history of the islands.
There is also an annual tomol crossing by the Chumash people. A tomol is a long canoe like boat where users must row together in rhythm. There are many interesting stories that surround the Channel Islands such as the book Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and the origin of the Chumash people and their journey to the mainland.
Hutash (mother earth) created the Chumash people out of seeds from a magic plant. Alchupo’osh, (sky snake; the milky way) Hutash’s spouse sent down lightning to create a fire for the people. The bird now known as the Condor was all white until he flew over the fire curious to get a better look and scorched his feathers turning them black. Soon after receiving the gift of fire, the Chumash people began to live more comfortably and have more children. As more people were born, the more noise they made.
This began to annoy Hutash, who after talking to Alchupo’osh decided the people needed to move to the mainland. To do this Hutash decided she would connect Lumiuw (Santa Cruz Island) to the mainland with a wishtoyo (a rainbow bridge). When Hutash told the people to go over the bridge, some were hesitant. Hutash promised to take care of them. While walking across some people looked down and got dizzy, then fell. To save them from drowning, Hutash turned these people into dolphins.
Submitted by Rachael Cavanagh – Environmental Science Resource Management Major at California State University Channel Islands.
Follow Rachael at @esrachaelm on Instagram