Carrington Point State Marine Reserve

grassy hills rise from ocean

Overview

Carrington Point State Marine Reserve (SMR) sits southwest of Santa Barbara on the north side of Santa Rosa Island, the second largest of California’s Channel Islands. Protecting nearly 13 square miles of coastal ecosystems, this SMR is home to surfgrass beds, kelp forests, and offshore sandy seafloors. This marine protected area (MPA) protects four miles of rocky shoreline, an excellent habitat for seabirds as well as invertebrates like mussels, anemones, and barnacles.

The cold, nutrient-rich waters surrounding the island help sustain a diverse web of marine life. Within the reserve, pelagic fish like tuna and mackerel, sea lions and seals, and extensive kelp forests full of kelp bass, giant sea bass, California sheephead, and California spiny lobster may be found. Although not out of reach, visiting this MPA requires a three-hour boat ride from Ventura Harbor.

Regulations

It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource.

California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 632(b)(124)

Quick Facts

MPA size: 12.78 square miles

Shoreline span: 4.8 miles

Depth range: 0 to 211 feet

Habitat composition:

  • Rock: 5.04 square miles
  • Sand/mud: 10.31 square miles

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About Carrington Point State Marine Reserve

Natural History

to seabirds on a rock in the ocean
Black oystercatchers at Carrington Point SMR. photo © J. West, CC BY-NC 2.0

Carrington Point SMR, like the rest of the Channel Islands region, is located at the convergence of warm currents that rush north up the Southern California coast and the cold California Current that pushes south from Alaska. Nutrient-rich water, combined with the mixing of temperatures and meeting of species from southern and northern ranges, account for the rich and varied marine life found at the Channel Islands.

Santa Rosa Island sits the second farthest west of the island chain and is influenced more heavily by the California Current. Along shore, Santa Rosa Island features gently sloping sandy beaches and sheer cliffs that plunge into the Pacific. Visitors can explore these sandy beaches and rocky shorelines, and look for seabirds like snowy plovers, willets, wandering tattlers, whimbrels, black turnstones, and sanderlings.

Moving beyond the shoreline, eelgrass beds line the sandy sections of the seafloor at Carrington Point SMR. Snails, sea stars, clams, and rock crabs find protection in the eelgrass beds while pipefish, señoritas and perch move amongst the long, swaying shoots. Sea urchins and California mussels can be found in the rocky intertidal area, which is lined with surfgrass beds. Beyond this, large rocky reefs are home to giant kelp forests. Within these forests, kelp bass, lingcod, cabezon, sea cucumbers, and scallops abound. From June to December, blue whales can be spotted offshore feeding as they migrate northward.

Cultural History

people holding paddles up in a boat on the ocean at sunset
Chumash tribal members paddle a tomol, the traditional Chumash redwood plank canoe, near Carrington Point SMR. photo © R. Schwemmer/NOAA

For centuries, Native American Tribes in California have relied on marine and coastal resources. Many Native American Tribes in California continue to regularly harvest marine resources within their ancestral territories and maintain relationships with the coast for ongoing customary uses. Traditionally home to the Chumash, there was an almost continuous history of Native American occupation on Santa Rosa Island from between 10,000 and 200 years ago. The potentially oldest human remains in North and South America were found on Santa Rosa Island near Arlington Springs in 1959. Using modern carbon dating of a fragment of bone, these remains were later dated to 13,000 years ago. Eight historic Native American village sites have been discovered on the island.

The first recorded instance of European exploration dates to 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed and documented three villages. In 1850, the Channel Islands were added to the United States, and cattle and sheep enterprises continued on Santa Rosa Island until 1998. From the 1940s to the 1960s the island was used for other purposes such as an army base and air force base and for oil drilling exploration. In 1980, Channel Islands National Park was established, protecting Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel Islands in addition to Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands, previously designated as Channel Islands National Monument. The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was also established in 1980, protecting 1,470 square miles of ocean encompassing the waters up to six nautical miles offshore around each of the five islands.

Recreation

pier extends from shrubby hillside into ocean
Bechers Bay Pier bordering Carrington Point SMR. photo © D. Fulmer, CC BY-NC 2.0

Santa Rosa Island is accessible by either boat or plane. Flights to the island take approximately 45 minutes and are offered year-round by charter through Channel Islands Aviation, while public boat trips with Island Packers out of Ventura Harbor can take upwards of three hours and run regularly from April to November, two-four days per week. Visitors can also access the island via private boats.

There is no visitor center, and no goods or services, but the island still offers many recreational opportunities including hiking, picnicking, camping, and diving, as well as fishing (outside any SMRs). There is no transportation on Santa Rosa Island, so Carrington Point SMR must be accessed on foot or by boat. Both commercial and recreational fishing are prohibited within the SMR, but swimming, surfing, boating, and diving are encouraged.

Coordinates

This area is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:

34° 01.280' N. lat. 120° 05.200' W. long.;
34° 04.000' N. lat. 120° 05.200' W. long.;
34° 04.000' N. lat. 120° 01.000' W. long.;
34° 00.500' N. lat. 120° 01.000' W. long.; and
34° 00.500' N. lat. 120° 02.930' W. long.

California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 632(b)(105)

Downloads for Carrington Point State Marine Reserve

Map

Map of Carrington Point State Marine Reserve - click to enlarge in new tab

Facts, Map & Regulations

MPA fact sheet - click to enlarge in new tab