Description of Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island Reserve

Fun Facts

  • Santa Cruz Island is located in Santa Barbara County.
  • Santa Cruz is California's largest island, almost three times the size of Manhattan. It is approximately: 24 miles long and up to 6 miles wide, 96 square miles, 62,000 acres
  • Average rainfall 20 inches. Temperature range 10 to 100 F
  • Painted Cave is the largest known sea cave in the world.
  • Picacho Diablo (Devil's Peak) is the tallest peak on the Channel Islands at 2,434 ft. (730 meters).
  • Santa Cruz has the greatest number of plant and animal species of all the Channel Islands.
Santa Cruz Island coast June 2008

Santa Cruz is the largest island off the coast of California. Located between Anacapa and Santa Rosa Islands, it lies from 19-25 miles off the adjacent mainland coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara.

The scenic beauty of Santa Cruz is reflected in its many landforms - two rugged mountain ranges, the highest peaks on the Channel Islands, deep canyons, a central valley, year-round springs and streams, plus 77 miles of craggy coastline cliffs, giant sea caves, pristine tidepools and expansive beaches. Lying directly on the boundary between cold northern and warm southern waters, this island hosts unique plant, animal, and marine communities representing nearly 1000 miles of coastline.

According to a legend, Santa Cruz Island was named for a priest's staff accidentally left on the island during the Portola expedition of 1769. A Chumash Indian found the cross-tipped stave and returned it to the priest. The Spaniards were so impressed that they called this island of friendly people "La Isla de Santa Cruz", the Island of the Sacred Cross.

Today, the ownership of Santa Cruz Island is divided between The Nature Conservancy and the Channel Islands National Park Service. The Nature Conservancy owns and manages the western 76% of the island; the eastern 24% is owned and managed by the Channel Islands National Park Service.

For contact information for the NRS Santa Cruz Island Reserve, click here.