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You’ve probably explored a forest many times – but have you ever experienced an underwater forest? An amazing kelp forest exists beneath the crystal waters of Channel Islands National Park! Kelp grows in tall, stretchy strands. Gas-filled bubbles help buoy the plant upwards towards the surface of the sea, allowing it to absorb sunlight - drawing energy deep into the ocean and powering the beginning of a food chain. In this underwater world, keystone species play an important role in maintaining the balance of the entire ecosystem. Diving, kayaking, and snorkeling are popular activities here that allow visitors to get up close and personal with the unique features of life on isolated islands. There are also numerous trails to traverse on land, ranging from the easy walking trails within Scorpion Valley to the rugged pathways in the Montañon area.
Measuring about 24-miles long, Santa Cruz Island is California's largest island. The island houses tall peaks, one of the world’s largest sea caves, and an amazing 60 endemic plant and animal species! Scorpion Rock is an excellent place to watch for a wide variety of seabirds. Non-flying animals have had to migrate to the island overtime, and so species diversity on islands may be low. For example, the chain of islands in this National Park are home to just four native mammals: the island fox, island deer mouse, harvest mouse, and spotted skunk. The island fox is considered a keystone species on the islands because of its complex connection with the land’s other species. The fox is an omnivore, feeding on both plants and animals to survive – and if the fox were to disappear, it would upset the balance of the island’s ecosystem. Stepping onto Santa Cruz Island is like discovering a whole new complex world!