Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park

Activities & Programs

On the islands, rangers, and volunteer naturalists offer guided hikes throughout the year. Also, every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon from Memorial Day through Labor Day, rangers conduct a live underwater video program from Anacapa Island.

Underwater Video Program

Few visitors to Channel Islands National Park are aware that almost half of the park's resources are located beneath the sea. Park boundaries extend one nautical mile around each of the five park islands and encompass one of the most diverse marine environments in the world.

Off the southern California coast and within the boundaries of the park lie great forests of seaweed called kelp. These towering ocean plants flourish in the waters surrounding the Channel Islands and are an integral part of the park resources. Over 1,000 species of plants and animals live in the upper 60 feet of the water column in a kelp forest. Seals, sea lions, algae, fishes, and marine invertebrates all blend together under the kelp canopy to form one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.

During the summer, the park offers an underwater video program to give visitors a rare glimpse into a seldom seen world, by taking them on a nature "hike" in a kelp forest.

Traditionally, this unseen yet crucial marine ecosystem has suffered from an out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy. Like ocean habitats the world over, the kelp forests of the Channel Islands are increasingly affected by coastal development, offshore oil drilling, toxic dumping, and commercial and recreational fishing—but receive very little human understanding.

With the advent of the underwater video program in 1985 that situation is being remedied. Through advanced underwater technology, many park visitors are enjoying their first journey into the marine world—without ever getting wet! The audience joins the program via television monitors on Anacapa Island or in the visitor center on the mainland. A park ranger dons a special microphone-equipped dive mask for communication to the surface and descends into the kelp forest camera in hand. The camera is turned on and the kelp forest comes to life.

From underwater, the park ranger explains what the TV monitors are revealing. The kelp forest and its many inhabitants are unveiled and explained as the visitors and divers "hike" among spiny sea urchins, iridescent abalone and soft, slow-moving sea cucumbers. Brightly colored fish move through the forest and are captured through the camera's eye. The story of the kelp forest is told, and those that hear it are the very ones who will determine its future. With this program, the seeds of understanding are planted. It is the hope of the National Park Service that from these seeds will grow the desire to preserve and protect this irreplaceable resource.

During the summer, this underwater program is presented Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the landing cove of Anacapa Island. It is open to the public free of charge and occurs at 2:00 p.m. Thousands of people have seen this program—foreign visitors, national and local politicians, biologists, environmentalists, teachers, schoolchildren, and the general public from all over the country have participated. Hopefully, few leave unaffected by its message of conservation and protection.

Interpretive Programs for the General Public

Throughout the year on weekends and holidays, rangers offer a variety of free public programs at the Robert J. Largomarsino Visitor Center in Ventura.