Channel Islands of California

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This article is about an archipelago off California, USA. For the British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, see Channel Islands.
Channel Islands of California
Channelislandsca.jpg
Californian Channel Islands map en.png
Geography
Location Pacific Ocean
Total islands 8
Area 350.89 sq mi (908.8 km2)
Highest elevation 2,429 ft (740.4 m)
Highest point Devils Peak, Santa Cruz Island
Country
United States
State  California
Largest city Avalon (pop. 3127)
Demographics
Population 3,703 (as of 2000)
Beach of Santa Cruz Island
Beach at San Miguel

The Channel Islands of California are a chain of eight islands located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California along the Santa Barbara Channel in the United States of America. Five of the islands are part of Channel Islands National Park, and the waters surrounding these islands make up Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Characteristics[edit]

The eight islands are split among the jurisdictions of three separate California counties: Santa Barbara County (four), Ventura County (two), and Los Angeles County (two). The islands are divided into two groups—the Northern Channel Islands and the Southern Channel Islands. The four Northern Islands used to be a single landmass known as Santa Rosae.

The archipelago extends for 160 miles (257.51 kilometers) between San Miguel Island in the north and San Clemente Island in the south. Together, the islands’ land area totals 221,331 acres (89,569 ha), or about 346 square miles (900 km2).

Five of the islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara) were made into the Channel Islands National Park in 1980. The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary encompasses the waters six nautical miles (11 kilometers) off Anacapa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Barbara islands.

Santa Catalina Island is the only one of the eight islands with a significant permanent civilian settlement—the resort city of Avalon, California, and the unincorporated town of Two Harbors.

Natural seepage of oil occurs at several places in the Santa Barbara Channel.[1] Tar balls or pieces of tar in small numbers are found in the kelp and on the beaches. Native Americans used naturally occurring tar, bitumen, for a variety of purposes which include roofing, waterproofing, paving and some ceremonial purposes.[2]

The Channel Islands at low elevations are virtually frost-free and constitute one of the few such areas in the 48 contiguous US states. It snows only rarely, on higher mountain peaks.

The eight Channel Islands of California, off the west coast of North America

Island Area
mi²
Area
km²
Population
Census 2000
County Highest peak
feet (m)
Northern islands
Anacapa 1.14 2.95 3 Ventura Summit Peak, 930 (283)
San Miguel 14.57 37.74 - Santa Barbara San Miguel Hill, 831 (253)
Santa Cruz 96.51 249.95 2 Santa Barbara Devils Peak, 2429 (740)
Santa Rosa 83.12 215.27 2 Santa Barbara Soledad Peak, 1589 (484)
Southern islands
San Clemente 56.81 147.13 3001) Los Angeles Vista Point, 1965 (599)
San Nicolas 22.75 58.93 2001) Ventura unnamed, 907 (276)
Santa Barbara 1.02 2.63 - Santa Barbara Signal Hill, 634 (193)
Santa Catalina 74.98 194.19 3696 Los Angeles Mount Orizaba, 2123 (648)
Channel Islands 350.89 908.79 3703   Devils Peak, 2429 (740)
1) Navy installations, itinerant military and civilian population

History[edit]

Separated from the California mainland throughout recent geological history, the Channel Islands provide the earliest evidence for human seafaring in the Americas. It is also the site of the discovery of the earliest paleontological evidence of humans in North America.[3] The Northern Channel Islands are now known to have been settled by maritime Paleo Indian peoples at least 13,000 years ago. Archaeological sites on the island provide a unique and invaluable record of human interaction with Channel Island marine and terrestrial ecosystems from the late Pleistocene to historic times. Historically, the northern islands were occupied by the Island Chumash, while the southern islands were occupied by the Tongva. San Nicolas has had a book written about the indigenous peoples living on the island, Island of the Blue Dolphins.

The Chumash and Tongva were removed from the islands in the early 19th century, taken to Spanish missions and pueblos on the adjacent mainland. For a century, the Channel Islands were used primarily for ranching and fishing activities, which had significant impacts on island ecosystems, including the local extinction of sea otters, bald eagles, and other species. With most of the Channel Islands now managed by federal agencies or conservation groups, the restoration of the island ecosystems has made significant progress.

In 1972, the Brown Berets seized and claimed the islands for Mexico, citing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, a treaty between Mexico and the USA by which Mexico lost more than half of its territory, and arguing that the treaty does not specifically mention the Channel Islands nor the Farallon Islands. Though the United States had occupied them since 1852, the group speculated that Mexico could claim the islands and seek their return through litigation before the International Court of Justice. However, a detailed analysis of its situation puts in doubt the likelihood of Mexico winning the case at the International Court of Justice.[4]

Military use[edit]

The United States Navy controls San Nicolas Island and San Clemente Island, and has installations elsewhere in the chain. During World War II all of Southern California’s Channel Islands were put under military control, including the civilian-populated Santa Catalina where tourism was halted and established residents needed permits to travel to and from the mainland.[5] San Miguel Island was used as a bombing range[6] and Santa Barbara Island as an early warning outpost under the presumed threat of a Japanese attack on California.[7] Santa Rosa Island was used in 1952 as a base for the USAF 669th AC&W Squadron and they operated two Distant Early Warning FPS-10 radars from the hilltops there. In 1955 another FPS-3 search radar was added, and in 1956, a GPS-3 search radar was installed. A new MPS-14 long-range height-finder radar was installed in 1958. The base was shut down in March 1963, when the 669th was moved to Vandenberg AFB In Lompoc, CA.

Wildlife[edit]

The Channel Islands are part of one of the richest marine biospheres of the world. Many unique species of plants and animals are endemic to the Channel Islands, including fauna such as the Island Fox, Channel Islands Spotted Skunk, Island Scrub Jay, Ashy Storm-petrel, Island fence lizard, Island Night Lizard, Channel Islands Slender Salamander, Santa Cruz sheep, San Clemente loggerhead shrike, San Clemente sage sparrow and flora including a unique subspecies of Torrey Pine[8] and Oak and the Island Tree mallow.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Shallow seepage impacting the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel". 
  2. ^ "Natural Oil and Gas Seepage in the Coastal Areas of California" (pdf). 
  3. ^ "Journey to 10,000 B.C". History Channel. Aired 4 May 2008.
  4. ^ Barnard R. Thompson. "Mexico’s Claim to California Islands – A Never-ending Story". 
  5. ^ "Catalina Island During WWII". Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  6. ^ "San Miguel Island (9,325 acres)". Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  7. ^ "Santa Barbara Island (639 acres)". Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  8. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Torrey Pine: Pinus torreyana, Globaltwitcher, ed. Nicklas Stromberg [1]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°00′58″N 119°48′14″W / 34.01611°N 119.80389°W / 34.01611; -119.80389