Channel Islands National Park consists of five of the eight Channel (or Santa Barbara) Islands -- Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara -- and a mile of each islandís surrounding waters. The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary includes the waters 6 miles around each island. The isolation of these islands has allowed a number of unique species to evolve: more than 100 species of plants and animals on the Channel Islands are found nowhere else. In addition, 27 species of cetaceans and six species of sea lions and seals have been seen on the islands and in the surrounding waters.
Anacapa Island, 11 miles southwest of Oxnard and closest to the mainland, is made up of three small islets. West Anacapa, the primary West Coast nesting area for the Brown Pelican, is mostly closed to the public. About 24 miles long and encompassing 62,000 acres, Santa Cruz Island is the largest and has the most varied habitats; nine species of plants are endemic, as are the Island Scrub Jay and the Island Gray Fox. Santa Rosa Island is mainly grassland but has two unique features -- a coastal freshwater marsh on its eastern tip and two small groves of rare Torrey Pines near Bechers Bay. The island is completely surrounded by Giant Kelp beds that provide habitat for many species of fish.
Westernmost San Miguel Island contains the Caliche Forest, an area of sand-casted ancient tree trunks. At Point Bennett, on the extreme western end of the island, thousands of California Sea Lions, Northern Elephant Seals, Harbor Seals, and Northern Fur Seals haul up on the beach. Santa Barbara, the southernmost island in the park, has excellent, accessible tidepools. Western Gulls and Brown Pelicans nest in colonies here, and California Sea Lions and Northern Elephant Seals breed on the island.
Marine Mammals of the Channel Islands
Positioned 25 miles out in the Pacific Ocean, the Channel Islands are an ideal spot for observing marine mammals. Ninety perceont of the southern California Sea Lion population breeds on San Nicolas and San Miguel Islands. Northern Elephant Seals and Northern Sea Lions also have colonies on the islands. Migrating gray whales attract visitors in the winter and spring.
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