The northern Channel Islands were home to many native Chumash communities who are believed to have inhabited the islands for thousands of years. When Europeans first reached the islands in the 16th century, they discovered a rich culture dependent upon the resources of the land and the sea for sustenance and survival. By the nineteenth century, the islands were fulfilling different purposes: vast sheep and cattle ranches occupied Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel islands and the channel waters were aggressively harvested for fish and marine mammals. The remains of ancient Chumash villages are intermingled with historic ranch complexes and later military structures, testifying to the diverse heritage of human experience on these offshore islands. Each of the five Channel Islands has a unique history. Channel Islands National Park invites you to learn more about the people, places, and stories associated with each of these islands and to experience the fascinating heritage of coastal southern California!
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his Spanish fleet first came upon San Miguel Island in 1542. In the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel they found an island chain with a long and rich history. The Chumash, who lived on the northern islands and along the coastline, had inhabited those lands for millennia, living off of the rich resources of the land and the sea. Cabrillo's fleet explored the California mainland and the offshore islands, producing the first accounts of Chumash culture and securing these ancient lands for the Spanish crown. In time, the four northern Channel Islands of Tuqan, Wi'ma, Limuw, and Anyapakh, as the Chumash knew them, were given their present names (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa).