Sitting upon a cliff, merely one hour away from LA’s abundance of cars and crowds, the unbelievable stillness of a placid coastal morning is pleasantly interrupted by the song of a western meadowlark. The bird melodically boasts from atop a lone buckwheat shrub; his inflated golden chest projecting his song with the wind across dancing blades of purple needle grass, out toward plunging, rocky cliffs where his ballad is eventually overcome by a cacophony of nesting western gulls. All the while, a cool onshore breeze wisps across the rocks and stirs the water, having built up a small swell in its fetch that pushes and pulls against kelp-covered rocks, repeatedly inundating a colorful collection of sea stars and urchins and providing a rhythmic – almost musical – texture to the morning’s culmination of sounds.
Nestled only a short boat ride from the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, the Channel Islands National Park comprises a total of five incredibly diverse coastal islands and the productive cold-water marine environments that envelope them. Quietly tucked away in their rugged, jutting shorelines, kelp forests, and mountainous ridgelines are a history, and a compilation of species and landscapes completely foreign to the manicured mainland landscape of southern California.
The onerous geography and isolation of the Channel Islands has not only served to protect it from the past two centuries’ onslaught of anthropogenic development, it has acted over eons to mold and shape the evolution of the Islands’ extremely diverse flora and fauna. Represented on just these five, tiny coastal islands is a suite of species larger than that found on over 1,000 miles of the North American coastline. To add to that, many of the species which inhabit the islands are endemics; meaning that they are not found anywhere else on earth. Teeming with wildlife, history, and beautiful, road-less landscapes, the Channel Islands truly offer a glimpse into the past, of a southern California that existed prior to the concrete, freeways and sprawling development of the mainland that looms only miles away. More>>