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The Galápagos of North America

By Linda Tancs

Channel Islands National Park is just off the southern California mainland, but in many ways it’s worlds apart. Lightly tread by tourists, the isolation of this chain of five major island groups has resulted in a globally significant biodiverse environment that some refer to as “the Galápagos of North America.” Its paleontological record shows evidence of extinct species such as pygmy mammoth, flightless sea duck, vampire bat and giant deer mouse. Among the living are rare birds, over two dozen species of whales and the largest colonies of seabirds in southern California. Santa Cruz Island, the largest, sports sea caves like Painted Cave, one of the world’s largest and deepest caves. Although the mainland visitor center in Ventura is readily accessible by car or public transportation, the islands are only accessible by park concessionaire boats and planes or private boat. Advance planning is highly recommended.

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