Santa Rosa Island (California)

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Coordinates: 33°57′56″N 120°06′30″W / 33.965681°N 120.108369°W / 33.965681; -120.108369

Map of Channel Islands
Santa Rosa Island
Orcas near Santa Rosa Island

Santa Rosa Island is the second largest of the Channel Islands of California at 53,195 acres (215.27 km2 or 83.118 sq mi). Santa Rosa is located about 26 miles (42 km) off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in Santa Barbara County and is part of Channel Islands National Park.[1]

The terrain consists of rolling hills, deep canyons, and a coastal lagoon. Highest peak is Vail Peak, at 1,589 feet (484 m). The Chumash, a Native American people lived on the Channel Islands at the time of European contact. They called the driftwood wima that washed up on the sandy beaches from the channel currents. The logs were used to build tomols (plank canoes).

Recreational activities on Santa Rosa Island include kayaking, camping and hiking. A private boat charter company offers a number of trips to the island year round, and camping reservations can be made through Channel Islands National Park offices in Ventura, California. A year-round charter flight service is available from Camarillo Airport for hikers and campers to Santa Rosa Island. Defined by the United States Census Bureau as Block 3009, Block Group 3, Census Tract 29.10 of Santa Barbara County, California.


Early history[edit]

During the last ice age, the four northern Channel Islands, including Santa Rosa Island, were conjoined into Santa Rosae, a single island that was only five miles (8 km) off the coast. In 1960, archaeologists discovered the remains of 13,000-year-old Arlington Springs Man, among the oldest human remains in the Americas, on the island. The remains of pygmy mammoths (Mammuthus exilis), which appear to have gone extinct about 13,000 years ago, have also been excavated there.[2][3] The ancestors of the Chumash Indians lived on Santa Rosa for many thousands of years, establishing numerous village sites along the coast and in the interior. Recent research has documented the presence of maritime Paleocoastal peoples on the island at least 12,000 years ago.[4] These Paleocoastal peoples, who had sophisticated hunting and fishing technologies, survived on the island until ~8,000 years ago and are probably the ancestors of the Chumash people who occupied the island until the 1820s, when they were removed to missions and towns on the adjacent mainland.

Mexican land grant[edit]

Governor Manuel Micheltorena made a Mexican land grant of the island of Santa Rosa to brothers José Antonio Carrillo and Carlos Antonio Carrillo in 1843. They gave the island to Carlos daughters, Manuela Carrillo de Jones and Francisca Carrillo de Thompson. Their husbands - John Coffin Jones (1796–1861) and Alpheus Basil Thompson (1795–1869) - entered into a partnership to manage the island. A claim was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852,[5] but the grant was not patented to Manuela Carrillo de Jones and Francisca Carrillo de Thompson until 1871.[6] The acrimonious Thompson-Jones partnership ended in 1859, and by 1862 T. Wallace More owned the whole island. The island was used as a sheep ranch during the late 19th century by the More family.

Vail Ranch[edit]

The More family sold the island to Walter L. Vail and J. W. Vickers in 1902, forming the Vail & Vickers Company of Santa Barbara. The partnership used the island for cattle ranching and a private hunting reserve.

Recent history[edit]

The United States Air Force maintained a radar base on the island during the Cold War.

In the late 1970s Mobil Oil Corporation was granted exploration rights on the island. Both explosive and vibroseis exploration methods were used. Extensive surveys and geological maps were made at that time.

National park[edit]

In 1980, Santa Rosa Island was included within Channel Islands National Park over the objections of Vail & Vickers, which then successfully lobbied to have the legislation stipulate that purchase of their land would be the highest priority of the Channel Islands National Park. Vail & Vickers sold the island in 1986 for the appraised value of nearly $30 million, which worked out to around $550 per acre. The sale agreement allowed continuation of the ranching and hunting operation for 3 months. Subsequently, the National Park Service issued a series of five-year renewable special use permits. A lawsuit by the National Parks Conservation Association in 1996 resulted in a court-approved settlement agreement which included removal of all cattle from the island and phased reduction by Vail & Vickers of the non-native deer and elk by 2011.

In 2006 U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced a provision into the annual defense policy bill that would allow disabled veterans to continue hunting elk on the island past 2011, without the consent of Vail & Vickers or the National Park Service. The provision stayed in the bill and was signed into law by President George W. Bush. This legislation was repealed by the next Congress as part of the FY 2007 Omnibus appropriations bill,[7] also signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Munchkin dudleya, an endemic plant species

Douglas Hughes, a California governor candidate in 2010, proposed that sex offenders be moved to the island if they opt not to leave California or remain in prison.[8][9]

CSUCI Santa Rosa Island Research Station[edit]

In November 2012 the National Park Service (NPS) issued a permit to California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI) to operate a field research station on Santa Rosa Island. The station will operate from existing facilities provided by the NPS. The CSUCI Santa Rosa Island Research Station (SRIRS) supports the engagement of students across academic levels in inquiry-rich learning experiences that develop and support student knowledge and critical thinking skills. The mission of the CSUCI Santa Rosa Island Research Station is to encourage and advance the interdisciplinary knowledge and stewardship of our natural and cultural resources through long-term research, inquiry-based education, and public outreach. The successful management of our resources is dependent upon integrating the knowledge and perspectives of individuals across disciplines and backgrounds. The CSUCI Santa Rosa Island Research Station seeks to cultivate a diverse community of scholars that will identify resource management problems and initiate innovative solutions. The ability of the Santa Rosa Island Research Station community to confront management challenges from multiple perspectives will enable it to react energetically, adeptly, and successfully to our changing natural and human landscapes.[10]

Ecology and climate[edit]

Torrey pine grove on Santa Rosa island. View towards Santa Cruz Island.

A variety of the Torrey pine (Pinus torreyana var. insularis) grows on the island. The population of this endangered species is estimated at approximately 1000 trees. The island oak (Quercus tomentella) is native to the island.

Flightless geese, giant mice and pygmy mammoths are extinct, while the island fox, spotted skunk, and munchkin dudleya (Dudleya gnoma)[11] (one of the six endemic plant species on the island) still live there. The island is home to one of only three known populations of Hoffman's rockcress.[12]

Its surrounding waters serve as an invaluable nursery for the sea life that feeds larger marine mammals and seabirds. Great white sharks are fairly common in the northern Channel Islands (especially San Miguel and Santa Rosa) and feed on the abundant marine mammals.

The rare endemic lichen Caloplaca obamae, discovered in 2007 and described by Kerry Knudsen in 2009, commemorates United States President Barack Obama.

Santa Rosa Island has a temperate marine climate. In winter, frosts are almost unknown, and in summer cool fogs make heat waves rare. Most of the rain falls from November to March. Annual precipitation totals are about 15 inches on the coast to almost 20 inches on the higher slopes. Summers are dry except for fog drizzle.

Climate data for Santa Rosa Island (Bechers Bay)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 84
Average high °F (°C) 63.1
Daily mean °F (°C) 55.5
Average low °F (°C) 47.8
Record low °F (°C) 39
Average precipitation inches (mm) 11.22
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 13 10 6 4 6 3 0 0 1 2 5 5 55
Source: WRCC (normals 1988-2003)[13]


See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Carlson, Cheri (October 2, 2013) "Fossil found on Santa Rosa Island may reveal new information on pygmy mammoths" Ventura County Star
  3. ^ Rocha, Veronica (16 September 2016). "Well-preserved mammoth skull unearthed on Channel Islands puzzles scientists". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  4. ^ Erlandson, J.M., T.C. Rick, T.J. Braje, M. Casperson, B. Culleton, B. Fulfrost, T. Garcia, D. Guthrie, N. Jew, D. Kennett, M.L. Moss, L.. Reeder, C. Skinner, J. Watts, & L. Willis. 2011. Paleoindian seafaring, maritime technologies, and coastal foraging on California’s Channel Islands. Science 441:1181-1185.
  5. ^ United States. District Court (California : Southern District) Land Case 56 SD
  6. ^ Report of the Surveyor General 1844 - 1886
  7. ^ "National Park Budget Increase, Channel Islands Protections in Omnibus". National Parks Conservation Association. 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  8. ^ Neil Katz (May 19, 2010), Welcome to Pedophile Island: Calif. Candidate Douglas Hughes Has Grand Plan for Child Molesters, CBS News 
  9. ^ Pat McMahon (May 21, 2010), Douglas Hughes, Ca. gubernatorial candidate, wants to create a ‘Pedophile Island’ off of the coast, The Daily Caller 
  10. ^ Carlson, Cheri (August 13, 2014) "Research takes off at Santa Rosa Island field station" Ventura County Star
  11. ^ The Nature Conservancy: D. gnoma
  12. ^ Center for Plant Conservation: Boechera hoffmannii
  13. ^ "General Climate Summary Tables". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved May 26, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]