A Channel Islands Excursion from Oxnard is a Must! – Channel Islands, Oxnard, California

If you haven’t read Roy A. Barnes’ first Oxnard article, it’s at this link.:

NPS Volunteer Mike Sandford is a great Anacapa Guide!
NPS Volunteer Mike Sandford is a great
Anacapa Guide!
A trek to Anacapa Island, one of the five islands that make up the Channel Islands National Park, is a must-visit when you are in Oxnard. It’s the closest and most visited of the islands. Anacapa Island is 11 miles from the shores of Oxnard, with departure from the Channel Islands Harbor. Anacapa Island and the rest of the islands rose out of the ocean millions of years ago, but its first signs of human habitation were when the Chumash Indians came some 10,000 years ago. They were explored by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in the fall of 1542, but they would get their Channel Islands name by Captain George Vancouver in 1793. Since then, these islands have been used by the military and for ranching purposes. In 1980, they were designated as a National Park while Jimmy Carter was President and are known today as the “Northern Galapagos Islands”, because a number of plant and animal species are endemic to the region; that is, they can only be found here.

The name for the island comes from the Chumash name Anyapakh, which means “mirage”. Anacapa Island is a little over a square mile in size but is really loaded with some of Mother Nature’s most colorful and interesting plant life and creatures. It has over 250 species of plants and seabirds, with the largest Brown Pelican rookery in the USA. Seven other species of marine birds nest here, including the Western Gull, as well as 22 species of land birds. Some 90 per cent of the Western Gulls in Southern California were born on Anacapa Island. Anacapa is also a migration ground for many other birds. Harbor seals and sea lions breed on the rocky beaches of Anacapa Island.

Island Packers will take you to Anacapa Island. It’s about an hour each way. For a couple of minutes during our trip over, it felt as if we were on a roller coaster because a large freighter ship crossed in front of us, producing large waves which really rocked the boat. I was lucky enough to be onboard the Vanguard with a very knowledgeable and friendly National Park volunteer by the name of Mike Sandford, as he was heading out with us to not only give us a tour, but to camp for the weekend. He’s a successful metal roofing company owner, but has been volunteering with his wife for the National Park Service for some time.

Those of us on the tour got a great safety tip from Mike because it was breeding season for the Western gulls. They can get agitated and will sometimes swoop down on people like a kamikaze plane. The way to protect one self is to hold your fist up high so they will aim (but miss practically all the time) at your fist rather than your head! When walking the marked trails, you will constantly be within feet of mother gulls sitting on their eggs. They won’t attack you if you stay on the foot paths, but instead complain incessantly to you in a noise that’s hard to describe.

Another thing we were warned about was not to pick up Deer Mice droppings since they carry the hantavirus. You never know, a manure fanatic could be lurking around within every tour group, so Mike wanted to cover all the bases for safety!

BE PREPARED TO CLIMB THE 154 STEPS when you get off the boat and then hike a few miles once you have climbed those stairs. You normally have around 2.5 hours to tour the island before you have head back to the docking area to board the boat.

Yet the climb and hike are more than worth the trouble, as you will see such plant life as the Alkalai Heath, Cheesewood, Cliff-aster, and Gumweed. The most dominant plant on the island is a bright orange-red perennial ice plant. It’s from South Africa, and was introduced by the Coast Guard in order to help with erosion control. The introduction worked too well, as the Ice Plant has overrun the island so much that the National Park Service brings out high schoolers to pull them up. Still, when walking along Anacapa Island, you won’t have to worry about a shortage of them. The dominating colors on the island also include green and yellow. Much of these two colors are from the Giant Coreopsis Tree’s leaves and sunflowers.

The island itself is sectioned off in three parts. Visitors will find themselves basically on the Eastern Anacapa side, but hiking westward, they will stumble onto one heck of a view from the high cliffs, which open out to the strait that separates East Anacapa from Middle Anacapa. This view is found at Inspiration Point, and also affords a look-see of Western Anacapa that’s further in the distance. The National Park Service provides an East Anacapa Island Map & Guide for use while exploring for free, but for 50 cents, you can take the guide home with you.

Inspiration Point is IN-SPIR-A-TION-AL!
Inspiration Point is IN-SPIR-A-TION-AL!
Solar energy helps supply power to the island, and every twelve seconds you will hear the blaring of the foghorn for two seconds out of the lighthouse, which has been in place for almost a century. At first, the noise was very irritating, but then the overwhelming beauty of the island caused me to basically tune out the noise. Anacapa Island even has a church-like building, but I’m not going to tell you what it’s used for: You gotta go to this wonderful place yourself to find out about “the church’s” unusual function!

The Other Channel Islands
Here’s a bit of a rundown on the other islands that can be visited, which stretch out over 40 miles, in order from east to west. The availability of visits varies by what time of year it is. It’s best to check the websites below for information on outdoor opportunities for each island:

The Channel Islands branch out over forty miles, and include Santa Cruz, the largest island, and closest to Anacapa. It’s 22 miles long, and 2-6 miles wide. Santa Cruz Island contains one of the world’s largest sea caves called the Painted Cave and Mount Diablo is at Santa Cruz Island. Seals and sea lions can be seen here, as well as the island’s Scrub Jay.

Santa Rosa Island is 15 miles long and ten miles wide. Here, one will find hills, canyons, and sand dunes. The spotted skunk thrives here as well as the elusive Torrey Pines. The Munchkin Dudleya is an endemic species of plant life found only here. Visitors can learn more about Chumash and ranching history at Santa Rosa Island.

San Miguel, the farthest out island of the group of four, is eight miles long by four miles wide. Because it’s so far away, San Miguel Island gets the worst weather, but it’s got plenty of sea lions and seals. Sheep used to be raised here from the mid-1800’s to the mid 1900’s. San Miguel Island was also used for bombing exercises by the military. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed here in 1542, and a monument honoring this explorer is located here.

Santa Barbara is split away from the other islands, roughly 40 miles southeast of Anacapa, and offers fewer tours during the year. The Xantus’ Murrelet is a seabird that makes its home in the crevices of island’s cliffs. Kelp forests and the island’s “live-forever” plant thrive here.

Two of the other Channel Islands, San Clemente Island, and San Nicolas Island, are not a part of the National Park because they are used by the military; as a result, they are off limits to the public. Santa Catalina Island makes up the 8th Channel Island, and is a well-known tourist destination, off of Los Angeles’ coastline, but is primarily owned by private interests.

More information on visiting the Channel Islands:

Up close and personal with a Western Gull.
Up close and personal with a Western Gull.
Hiking, camping, snorkeling, and kayaking activities are also available on the islands. Check below websites for details. When visiting Anacapa Island, it’s wise to pack or wear long sleeves and long pants (and bring some insect repellant) because you may get swarmed by mosquitoes as you get off and re-board the boat, due to the vast amounts of kelp around the landing point, which attracts these pests! Don’t let those flies keep you from visiting because being pestered by them is only temporary. Yet the memories collected from visiting Anacapa Island will last for a lifetime!

Channel Islands National Park: 1901 Spinnaker Dr. Ventura, CA 93001.

Island Packers will take you out to Anacapa and the other islands. Throughout the year, some islands are more accessible than others, with Anacapa and Santa Cruz being the most available. 1867 Spinnaker Dr., Ventura Harbor, CA 805-642-1393. Admission for tours.

You can even fly to Santa Rosa Island for day trips and camping adventures via Channel Islands Aviation, which flies out of Camarillo Airport, a city just east of Oxnard. 805-987-1301.

General Oxnard Information:

To make the most of your trip to Oxnard before and after the incredible journey to Anacapa Island and/or the other Channel Islands, go to www.visitoxnard.com or call 1-800-2-OXNARD or 1-805-385-7545.

BRoy A. Barnes is a past contributor to Bootsnall.com for articles covering London, Virginia Beach, Central Ohio, Central Florida, and Casper, Wyoming. He’s a connoisseur of fried chicken and is an avid runner. He likes to watch old Dynasty and Ryan’s Hope re-runs on the SoapNet Channel. Besides travel articles, you can read his fiction and poetry via such publications as Skive Magazine, Skatefic.com, and Breath & Shadow. He’s lived on the windy plains of southeastern Wyoming for over twenty years.