Santa CruzIsland flower


The Santa Cruz Island Reserve was established in 1966 to provide access, assistance, and facilities to researchers and classes for studies of archaeology, marine and terrestrial biology, geography, and geology of the northern Channel Islands, with special emphasis on Santa Cruz Island. The primary purpose has been to facilitate research and instruction on the reserve, especially through provision of overnight accommodations and transportation around the island (land and nearby waters).

Use of the Santa Cruz Island Reserve is limited to bona fide research, class use, and Reserve outreach.  Use of the Reserve must be coordinated through the Reserve Director, and the UCSB Natural Reserve System campus office. Visits to the island for purposes other than research or instruction should be coordinated through The Nature Conservancy at 805-642-0345.

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 legend, Santa Cruz Island was named for a priest’s staff accidentally left on the island during the Portola expedition of 1769. A Chumash Native American 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 ServiceThe 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.