Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands, and the most popular island to visit recreationally. This island is easy to get to, has the best weather of the islands, and there are many recreational activities to enjoy such as hiking, kayaking, and tidepooling.
I visited Santa Cruz to hike the Pelican Bay trail, which is a nature conservancy trail located between Pelican Bay and Prisoners Harbor. This trail requires limited entry as it is a protected area; and is only accessible with a tour guide and signed waivers.
During the nature conservancy hike, I learned much about the island’s flora and fauna. Eucalyptus trees were planted on Santa Cruz as a means to harvest wood. Unfortunately, eucalyptus trees do not provide useful timber for building, and require a lot of water. However, they are useful wind-breakers. The photo above was taken from the pier of Prisoners Harbor, and there is a huge eucalyptus tree on the far left. Most of these trees have been removed from the island as they are an invasive plant, but there are a few remaining on the beach. During the hike I learned that these particular eucalyptus trees may be the tallest of their kind in the United States. Although they are an invasive species, these eucalyptus trees are amazingly beautiful.
This is a photo taken along the trail, illustrating the island’s coastal scrub community of plants, grasslands, trees, and coastline. Santa Cruz Island and its rich plant life have supported Chumash people for around 9,000 years.
These photos were taken at the end of the day, next to Prisoners Harbor. The beach found here consists of varying sizes of rocks. Rock beaches are formed due to high-energy waves depositing large particles such as rocks and boulders. The rocks found here reflect the geology of the island, which varies greatly. Prisoners Harbor is located at the northern side of the island, which contains primarily of Miocene volcanic rocks. The southern side of Santa Cruz consists of metamorphosed sedimentary rocks and schists.
Located within these piles of rocks are pieces of shells. As Santa Cruz is part of the Channel Islands National Park, visitors cannot remove any rocks or shells from the island. However, I saw many boulders stacked with large, whole shells that people had collected from the beach and piled together (which I sadly did not take any pictures of). I also saw people balancing rocks in tall formations, and other stacks built by past visitors.