Posted Sep 11, 2017 | By Visit Oxnard

Experience Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary: Home to Shipwrecks, Artifacts and Sea Life

Just off the coast of Oxnard sits a 1400-mile stretch of ocean that's a marine sanctuary.

This federally protected area, which surrounds the Channel Islands, is a historic wonder with rare fish fluttering through shipwrecks and birds that can't be found anywhere else in the world flying above.

While the marine sanctuary's purpose is to protect the animals, habitat and shipwrecks, there are ways for Oxnard visitors to experience this one-of-a-kind spot. Here's how:

Underwater scuba diver oxnard california

Dive through shipwrecks in the sanctuary

Records suggest that 150 ships and aircrafts have gone down in the sanctuary, but few have been discovered. Divers love the sanctuary for its clear water and variety of easy-to-see shipwrecks.

Here are several wrecks that live in the sanctuary:

  • SS Cuba
    In its lifetime, the SS Cuba carried both passengers and mail until it met its demise in 1923 when it hit a reef off San Miguel Island. The ship's outerskeleton and engine parts remain intact underwater. Researchers are currently mapping the wreckage.
  • SS Winfield Scott
    During the early 1850s the SS Winfield Scott transported passengers and cargo during the California Gold Rush, but crashed into Anacapa Island when heavy fog set in. All 450 passengers survived, staying on the island for about a week before being rescued by a mail ship. The ship sank and is now a favorite underwater attraction.
  • Goldenhorn
    Hauling coal from Australia for the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Goldenhorn hit Santa Rosa Island in heavy fog in 1892 and sank.
  • Del Rio
    This fishing vessel, which also swept for mines in World War II, caught fire and sank off the coast of Anacapa Island in 1952.

There are outfitters that offer training, rentals and guided diving tours through the sanctuary. If you're not familiar with the area and want to see shipwrecks and exotic sea life, taking a guided tour is best.

Snorkel through the sanctuary
If diving isn't your thing, grab some snorkeling gear and experience the marine sanctuary in a different way. Santa Barbara, Anacapa and the eastern side of Santa Cruz Islands provide great access to sea caves and kelp forests.

Two currents collide under the Channel Islands, which makes it a melting pot of sea life. Visibility is usually great too, reaching over 50ft on clear days.

As with diving, local outfitters offer regular snorkeling trips through the sanctuary.

See artifacts displayed in the museum
To experience shipwrecks without getting wet, visit the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Key pieces of shipwrecks are on display inside, along with artifacts and information about the unpredictable seas that surround the Channel Islands.

Oxnard visitors can take a boat to Santa Barbara Island to visit the museum. While there, take some time to check out the sea lion rookery and wander along the five-mile trail that snakes through the rocky island.

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is unlike any other place you'll visit, and given its proximity to Oxnard, visitors should certainly plan a day or two to explore it. From shipwrecks to sea caves, the sites within the sanctuary will be memorable, guaranteed.


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