Park Timeline

lighthouse on bluff

©Tim Hauf,

20,000 Before Present (BP) Sea level approximately 350 feet lower than today. Northern Channel Islands are one island named Santarosae by modern researchers.

13,000 BP Sea level begins to rise. Pleistocene fauna—pygmy mammoth, “giant” deer mouse, flightless goose, rattlesnake, shrew, vampire bat—begins to disappear.

12,900 BP Arlington Springs on Santa Rosa Island (SRI) inhabited. The oldest known human remains found in North America date to this occupation.

12,000 to 11,500 BP Increased evidence of human occupation on SRI and San Miguel Island (SMI), including Daisy Cave on SMI.

10,500 BP Shell beads, fishing gorges, and sea grass cordage present in archaeological sites.

10,000 BP Earliest evidence of human occupation on Santa Cruz Island (SCI).

7,5000 BP Earliest known Chumash village site on SRI.

7,000 BP Population density on the islands begins to rise, significant increase in fish and marine mammal exploitation.

5,000 BP Earliest evidence of occupation on Anacapa Island (AI).

4,000 BP Earliest evidence of occupation on Santa Barbara Island (SBI).

2,500 BP Transition to circular shell fishhooks begins, marking an evolution in technology and increasing reliance on fishing. Mortars and pestles manufactured on SMI for trade.

1,5000 BP Tomol (frameless, planked canoe) and bow and arrow introduced.

1,000 BP Micro-blade and shell bead industries begin on SCI. Shell beads were used as money and were traded throughout southern California.

800 BP Dramatic changes in Chumash economic and political systems begin—increased complexity in social classes, technology, and trade.

650 BP Shell bead production intensifies.

1542 Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sails up the coast of California and dies on a Channel Island. First written description of the Channel Islands and their inhabitants.

1602 Vizcaino sails past the Channel Islands. First good charts of the Channel Islands.

1769 Portola explores up the coast of California. San Francisco Bay is “discovered.” European settlement of the California coast begins.

1770 First introduction of glass beads to Chumash.

1777 Steel needles in use by Chumash. Decline of shell bead manufacture begins.

1782 Mission San Buenaventura established. Total Chumash population estimated at 8,000 to 10,000 people.

1793 George Vancouver visits area and gives islands their present-day names.

1800 Aleut hunters active on the islands during this period. Russian and American ships leave the Aleuts on the islands for long periods of time to hunt otters. The hunters are reported to have massacred some island American Indians.

1804 Spanish plan to build a mission on SCI. Idea later abandoned.

1806 Measle epidemic. Chumash population is significantly reduced.

1812 Major earthquake hits the area.

1816 1,328 Chumash reside at Mission San Buenaventura.

1820s Last of the Island Chumash population moves from islands to mainland.

1824 Chumash revolt. Many leave the missions only to be brought back later.

1830 Thirty convicts are dropped off on SCI with provisions. The landing area becomes known as “Prisoners Harbor.”

1834 Richard Henry Dana arrives in California aboard the Pilgrim and later writes a book about his experiences, Two Years Before the Mast.

1836 George Nidever and hunting party have a skirmish with Aleuts on SRI.

1839 SCI is granted to Andres Castillero (Mexican Land Grant).

1843 SRI is granted to Jose Antonio and Carlos Carrillo. The island is stocked with cattle, sheep, and horses the next year.

1850 California becomes part of the United States (Compromise of 1850). George Nidever leases SMI from new government and introduces sheep, cattle, pigs, and horses to the island. Gull eggs are harvested on the islands and shipped to San Francisco during this period.

1850s US Coast Survey begins mapping the Channel Islands to improve navigation and commerce.

1853 The SS Winfield Scott wrecks off AI.

1853 Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island is brought to Santa Barbara by George Nidever.

1854 AI set aside for a lighthouse. James Whistler produces two copper etchings of AI for the US Coast and Geodetic Survey.

1855 US Reservation, Zanja de Cota, established for the surviving Chumash near Mission Santa Inés. Active sealing in progress on AI.

1858 T.W. More buys interest in SRI. In 1865 the More family completes buying the island.

1860 Abalone industry established by the Chinese.

1862 6,000 sheep reported on SMI.

1869 SCI Company formed and purchased island to develop as a ranch. Sheep are recorded grazing on AI.

1870 US Census of Agriculture lists 50,000 sheep on SCI.

1874 Up to 100,000 sheep reported on SRI. SMI reported as grazed down to the sand.

1875 Paul Schumacher excavates archeological sites on SCI and SMI.

1878 Leon de Cessac leads first archeological expedition to AI, SMI, and SCI.

1880s Justinian Caire acquires sole ownership of SCI.

1892 Goldenhorn wrecked off coast of SRI.

1894 Crown of England wrecked off coast of SRI.

1900 Ordinances are passed making it illegal to gather abalone from less than twenty feet of water, ending Chinese commercial gathering.

1901 SRI is purchased by Vail & Vickers Co. The ranch is converted from a sheep ranch to a cattle ranch.

1905 JM Colman wrecked off Pt. Bennett, SMI.

1907 H. Bay Webster leases AI and lives on Middle AI with his wife and two sons for 10 years.

1909 Japanese and American fishermen harvesting abalone.

1910 Eaton Resort is established on SCI. Northern elephant seals hunted to near extinction—reduced to less than 100 on Guadalupe Island off Baja California.

1911 Sea otters are protected by law. Comet wrecked off north coast of SMI.

1912 Light beacon placed on AI.

1915 Aggi wrecked off Talcott Shoals, one mile west of SRI. Hyder family moves to SBI to farm.

1920 Prohibition begin. Islands become popular smuggling areas.

1923 Cuba wrecked off Point Bennett, SMI.

1928 Frenchy Le Dreau takes up residence on AI; remains there for 28 years.

1928 Light tower built on SBI.

1929 Jane L. Stanford is dynamited off east coast of SRI. The Lester family resides on SMI. Herbert Lester acts as manager of the ranch.

1930 Elephant seals return to SMI.

1932 AI lighthouse is completed.

1934 SMI transferred to the US Navy.

1935 Mutiny on the Bounty filmed in part on SMI. The film wins best picture of the year.

1937 Edwin Stanton purchases 9/10ths of SCI.

1938 Channel Islands National Monument is established, encompassing AI and SBI, and administered from Sequoia National Park.

1941 AI is designated a Coastal Lookout Station. The lighthouse is blacked out and men are kept on a twenty-four-hour watch from the tower.

1942 A coastal lookout station and aircraft early warning post are established on SBI. New Zealand red rabbits are introduced on SBI.

1947 President Truman signs a proclamation extending the boundaries of Channel Islands National Monument to include one nautical mile off the shores of AI and SBI. Phil Orr sets up camp on SRI and conducts archeological fieldwork for the next 21 years.

1950 The US Air Force establishes a small base at Johnsons Lee on SRI.

1954 Rabbit extermination program initiated on SBI by the National Park Service (NPS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Population is estimated at 2,600 rabbits.

1957 Channel Islands National Monument is administered from Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego.

1959 First seasonal park rangers arrive on West AI and set up a base camp. An accidental fire on SBI burns 66 percent of the island.

1960 Santa Cruz wrecked in Prisoners Harbor, SCI.

1962 Chickasaw wrecked off the coast of SRI.

1963 Cooperative agreement established between the US Navy and the Department of the Interior that allows the NPS to manage SMI.

1967 Headquarters for Channel Islands National Monument is established in Oxnard.

1968 AI lighthouse is automated.

1970 Due to pesticide contamination, only one California brown pelican chick survives at Anacapa Island, the primary US nesting site for the birds.

1972 White abalone harvest in southern California peaks at almost 144,000 pounds.

1974 Channel Islands National Monument headquarters is moved to Ventura Harbor.

1975 AI visitor center opens.

1978 Dr. Carey Stanton agrees to sell his land on SCI to The Nature Conservancy.

1980 Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are established.

1982 Visitor center and administration building constructed for Channel Islands National Park in Ventura Harbor.

1985 Sea urchins comprise fifty percent of marine species harvested in the Santa Barbara Channel.

1985 Live underwater video program begins on AI.

1986 SRI is purchased by NPS.

1987 USFWS begins reintroduction of sea otters to San Nicolas Island.

1991 One-fourth of East SCI is purchased by NPS.

1991 SBI visitor center opens.

1992 Two more quarters of East SCI are purchased by the NPS.

1993 Feral pigs are eliminated from SRI.

1995 Island foxes begin declining on SMI, for unknown reasons.

1996 NPS acquires the last quarter of East SCI bringing the total acreage owned by the public to 6,264.

1997 USFWS lists eight species of plants on SRI and nine plants on SCI as endangered or threatened.

1998 Vail & Vickers, National Parks Conservation Association, and the NPS sign a settlement agreement requiring removal of all but 12 cattle on SRI by Dec. 31, 1998.

1999 The last of the sheep are live-captured and removed from SCI.

1999 Radiotelemetry study reveals that SMI fox decline is due to predation by golden eagles. First golden eagle nest is found on Coche Point on SCI. NPS begins trapping and relocation of golden eagles from the northern Channel Islands. The remaining wild island foxes on SMI, 15 animals, are brought into captivity.

2000 The last remaining wild foxes on SRI, 15 animals, are brought into captivity.

2001 The Nature Conservancy donates 8,500 acres of its holding on SCI to the NPS, bringing the total acreage owned by the public on SCI to 14,733.

2001 Members of the Chumash community paddle across to the Santa Barbara Channel to Limuw (Santa Cruz Island) in a traditional tomol (plank canoe)—the first to travel the historic route since the 1870s.

2002 White abalone become the first marine invertebrate to be proposed for listing as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

2002 Bald eagles released into the park as step to reestablish the historical island population.

2002–2003 Park partners with JASON Expedition and other organizations to reach over 1.6 million students through live satellite broadcasts from the islands and underwater.

2003 Rats eradicated from AI.

2004 Four island fox subspecies, the three in the park as well as Catalina island foxes, are listed as endangered by US Fish & Wildlife Service.

2004 First foxes are released back to the wild on SMI, where they have been missing for five years.

2005 Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary 25th Anniversary.

2006 In 2006, two bald eagle pairs nest and the first chicks in over 50 years hatch on the islands.

2006 Bald eagle webcam established on SCI.

2007 Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary expands the marine protected areas into federal waters. Protected areas now encompass 21 percent of the sanctuary.

2007 First peregrine falcon chicks hatch on SBI in over 50 years.

2007 Feral pigs eradicated from SCI.

2008 Captive breeding program succeeds in bringing the island fox back from the brink of extinction on SCI, SMI, and SRI. The last of the captive foxes are released into the wild.

2008 Park concessioner Island Packers celebrates 40 years of visitor transportation to the islands.

2009 Annual visitation to the islands and mainland visitor center has increased to about 300,000.

2009 Parks as Classrooms programs educate over 30,000 children.

2003 The state of California establishes marine protected areas around the Channel Islands to protect and restore marine ecosystems.

2003 First island foxes are released back to the wild on SRI.

2009 Scorpion Ranch Visitor Center opens on SCI in the 1883 masonry ranch house.

2010 Staircase replaced on Anacapa Island ensuring access to the island.

2011 New park film, Treasure in the Sea, premieres. View the film in our visitor center or online at:

2011 New exhibits installed in the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center in Ventura.

2011 Bald eagle hatches for the first time in over 60 years on Anacapa Island.

2011 The park and sanctuary joint volunteer program, Channel Islands Naturalist Corps, wins the Take Pride in America national award for outstanding federal volunteer program.

2011 California common murre chicks hatch for the first time since 1912 on the Channel Islands.

2011 Nonnative deer and elk eradicated on SRI.

2012 Largest coastal wetland on the Channel Islands restored at Prisoners Harbor.

2012 Economic report shows that in 2010 park visitors spent more than $24 million in nearby communities, supporting more than 300 jobs in the area.

2013 Volunteer program grows to 1,154 volunteers, donating nearly 74,000 hours—the equivalent of 35 full-time positions.

Last updated: December 13, 2022

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