SAN MIGUEL ISLAND THROUGH TIME
* 1887. Greene, E. L. A Botanical Excursion to the Island of San Miguel in Pittonia 1:74-93
SAN MIGUEL ISLAND: is the westernmost island in Channel Islands National Park. When Juan Cabrillo visited San Miguel Island (Isla de Possession) in 1543, it was reported: “The Indians call this island Liquimuymu. In this island de la Possession there are two villages; the one is called Zaco and the other Nimollollo.” In 1815, a priest at La Purisima Mission ordered Captain Francisco Kuliwit to go to San Miguel Island with 30 canoes and bring back all of the Indians still there. Many Indians had already been taken off the island in 1812. The final evacuation of about 30 Indians took place in 1816. Early documented archaeological collectors include:
Other artifact collectors include:
In 1919 the Heye Foundation sponsored Ralph Glidden on a six months' dig during which 343 skeletons were exhumed and numerous artifacts collected. David Banks Rogers first visited the island in March and June of 1927, and wrote:
- “Under the lee cliffs of the island, one may, at any dry period of the year, find torrents of sand pouring into the sea. There can be only one end to this ceaseless erosion. In the course of time, San Miguel will cease to appear on our maps as an island, and will be charted as dangerous shoals.”
Phil C. Orr conducted an archaeological survey and made surface collections in 1950 and reported:
- “there are about 50 ancient village sites on San Miguel Island containing a wealth of archaeological information covering the past ten thousand years.”
Orr also excavated numerous mammoth remains. From 1962-1969 Charles Rozaire conducted surveys and excavations on San Miguel Island.
According to F. R. Holland, after the last occupants departed, San Miguel Island remained idle with the sheep as its only tenants. During the Korean War, the island was used by the Navy as an impact area for aerial bombing. As a result of this activity, as late as 1960 the island was contaminated with live ammunition, even though it hadn't been used as a target for several years. A private Navy research contractor conducted highly classified tests in connection with the Polaris Missile System. From April 2014 to May 2016 the island was closed to the public while the Navy conducted an ordinance clean-up operation. No live munitions were found.
» Francis R. Holland San Miguel Island: Its History and Archaeology in Journal of the West II:2 (145-155), April, 1963.
» “Translation from the Spanish of the Account by the Pilot Ferrel of the Voyage of Cabrillo along the West Coast of North America in 1542” in Wheeler, G. M., Report upon U.S. Geographical Surveys west of the 100th Meridian, Volume VII, Archaeology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. 1879. Pp. 293-314.
In the News~
1838: In November, 1838, Captain John Bancroft, on the ship Lama, was anchored off San Miguel Island while his 25 Aleut hunters sought the precious sea otter.
1850: Samuel C. Bruce had sheep on San Miguel Island before 1850. He sold his right, title and interest in the island to Captain George Nidever. Nidever built an adobe house in 1852, and in May of 1863, Nidever appeared before the 4th District Court in San Francisco and successfully bid $1800 to satisfy a debt of Samuel Bruce which was secured by a half-interest in San Miguel Island. Nidever and his sons used the adobe until 1870.
1850: “This same month [January 1850]… I then went to San Francisco and bought a small schooner of 17 tons burthen, with which I returned to Santa Barbara… Soon after buying my schooner in San Francisco, I bought out the interest of a man by the name of Bruce who had sheep on the San Miguel Island…” [Ellison, William Henry. The Life and Adventures of George Nidever, 1802-1883, Berkeley, 1937, p. 76.]
1852: A. D. Bache’s Report of the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey for 1852 states San Miguel Island “is about eight miles long and three and a half broad; on the north side of it is a very good anchorage, which I have named Cuyler’s Harbor in honor of one of the officers attached to the party. Water can be obtained there at any time in the ravine just above the landing, and by digging in the sand at the eastern extremity of the beach.” The 1869 Coast Pilot of California reports: “There is no water here in the summer... Sheep and some stock have been placed upon San Miguel, but the success of the experiment has been doubtful — certainly unremunerative.”
September 12, 1854 [DAC]: “September 8th, at San Pedro, schooner Queen of the West, [Captain] Sweet, for San Miguel Island...”
January 9, 1856 [DAC]: “Notice to mariners… west end, San Miguel Island, S. 12 degrees E. 24 miles…”
August 16, 1857 [W. E. Greenwell to A. D. Bache, Report of the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey for 1857]: “U.S. Schooner Humboldt, Prisoners Harbor, Dear Sir: In comformity with your instructions of June 16th, I forward you a summary report of work executed the past year… San Miguel, adjacent to Santa Rosa, is a small, smooth island, the highest elevation being not more than four or five hundred feet above the ocean. It is without wood, and has a very limited supply of water. At present there are some four or five hundred head of sheep upon it. It is, I believe, public domain.”
September 28, 1857 [DAC]: “…Having visited and examined San Clemente, Santa Catalina, San Nicolas, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel, we [Coast Survey] found them offering no inducements for agriculture, and very few indeed for raising stock, whilst there are so many advantages on the main[land]. In a few words, we may characterize their disadvantages as: want of water and want of fuel, with high, bold and rugged sides, which in many places become precipitous…”
April 17, 1858 [Los Angeles Star]: “...The Channel Islands extend from Point Conception to San Diego—the most important of them laying off and forming Santa Barbara county. The first in the chain is San Miguel, which is eight miles long, and affords excellent pasturage. It is occupied by Mr. George Neidiver [sic]...”
August 12, 1868 [SFDEB]: “Island Property For Sale. San Miguel Island, Coast of Santa Barbara, with three houses on the island, together with a fine band of sheep and corrals, and everything appertaining to sheep raising. No better property in the State for a permanent and lucrative investment. For particulars, apply to Christy & Wise, 007 Front Street [San Francisco.]” [This must have been placed by George Nidever! Also ran Aug. 17, 1868]
1869 Coast Pilot of California reports: “There is no water here in the summer... Sheep and some stock have been placed upon San Miguel, but the success of the experiment has been doubtful — certainly unremunerative.”
1869: On May 9 Hiram Wallace Mills (1828-1915), purchased “one undivided half of all interest, right, title and possession” of San Miguel Island from Captain George Nidever and his two sons, Mark and George, for $5000. The following year, Mills purchased the remaining half for $10,000, which included all livestock and improvements.
August 27, 1870 [SBT]: “Sailed. August 25. Schooner Louisa Harker, Davis, San Miguel Island, otter hunting.”
September 3, 1870 [SBT]: “Sailed. August 30. Schooner Active, Mills, San Miguel Island.”
November 7, 1871 [SFDEB]: “Academy of Sciences. New discovery… W. G. W. Harford presented several shells of the
October 5, 1872 [SBIndex]: “Real Estate Transactions. James W. Harrington to Pacific Wool Growing Company, $100; undivided sixth of San Miguel Island.”
November 22, 1872 [SFDEB]: “Elmer Terry vs. Warren Mills. Statement about $25,000 worth of troubles at San Miguel Island. Elmer Terry brings suit in the Third District Court, agains Warren H. Mills, on a complaint in equity for damages. The plaintiff alleges that in December, 1871, Mills sold him an undivided one-sixth interest in the Island of San Miguel, lying off the coast of Santa Barbara county, including 6,000 sheep in good condition, a vessel and other property, for $5000, but he found there were only 2,500 diseased sheep, whereby he has sustained $8,000 in damages. Terry also alleges that through the representations of Mills that the island was nine miles long and four miles wide, and capable of keeping one sheep to an acre, and upon his guarantee that 6,000 sheep would be shorn on the island, plaintiff purchased from P. F. Mohrhardt his one-third undivided interest to said property for $15,000, the title to the same having been guaranteed to be good by Mills, who is a lawyer, and knew all about it. That Mills agreed to purchase a one-third interest in the property belonging to J. M. Leuzarder if he had to pay as high as $20,000. Terry alleges that he conveyed to Mills, to be used in part payment for the purchase, 274 acres of land in Santa Barbara county with improvements and stock, valued at $7,500 by agreement between them. Terry also assigned to Mohrhardt a note and mortgage amounting to $2,076, and gave him three promissory noted of the amounts of $1000, $____, and $____, the latter being made payable to Mills, to induce him to ……..Get article from Godfrey site!
July 11, 1873 [SBMP]: “Arrived. July 1. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, from San Miguel Island.”
July 26, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. July 19. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
July 26, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. July 23. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, from San Miguel Island.”
August 1, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. July 31. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
August 14, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. August 4. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, from San Miguel Island.”
August 23, 1873 [SBDP]: “Sailed. August 16. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, San Miguel Island.”
September 6, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. September 1. Schooner Active,[Captain] Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
September 20, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. September 19. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
September 26, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. September 24. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, from San Miguel Island.”
October 4, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. October 1. Schooner Active, [Captain] Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
October 24, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. October 19. Schooner Matinee, [Captain] Chambers, from San Miguel Island.”
November 1, 1873 [SBDP]: “Real Estate Transactions. E. H. Kettredge to the Pacific Wool Growing Company, undivided one-third interest of San Miguel Island, also the undivided one third of all the cattle, horses, sheep and other personal property on the Island, and an undivided one third of the schooner Active; consideration $1.”
November 12, 1873 [SBDP]: “Terry vs. Mills. As some local interest was felt awhile ago in a suit of Elmer Terry against W. H. Mills, in regard to Anacapa Island, etc., it may be worth while to state that the case was recently dismissed in San Francisco at the request of Terry, after ten days spent in trying the case, as Mr. Mills informs us. Mr. Terry gave his reason for dismissing it as follows: ‘I hereby authorize and direct the dismissal of the action entitled Elmer Terry vs. Warren H. Mills, and I hereby withdraw all charges of fraud against the defendant, Warren H. Mills, and in relation thereto I acknowledge I was mistaken.’ The foregoing statement is taken from a copy of the order made by the Clerk of the County Court of San Francisco, officially signed. The friends of Mr. Mills will be glad to learn the result of the suit.”
November 20, 1873 [SBDP]: Departures. November 11. Schooner Matinee, Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
January 9, 1874 [SBDP]: “Departures. January 7. Schooner Matinee, Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
January 23, 1874 [SBDP]: “Arrivals. January 14. Schooner Matinee, Chambers, from San Miguel Island.”
January 23, 1874 [SBDP]: “Departures. January 15. Schooner Matinee, Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
January 30, 1874 [SBDP]: “Departures. January 26. Schooner Matinee, Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
February 4, 1874 [SBDP]: “Arrivals. January 29. Schooner Matinee, Chambers, from San Miguel Island.”
February 4, 1874 [SBDP]: “Departures. January 30. Schooner Matinee, Chambers, for San Miguel Island.”
February 12, 1874 [SBDP]: “Departures. February 8. Schooner Matinee, Chambers, from San Miguel Island.”
March 9, 1874 [SBDP]: “Wool. The schooner Matinee reached here at 9 P.M. last night from San Miguel Island, with twenty-four large sacks of wool for reshipment to San Francisco. The wool is owned by the Pacific Wool Company.”
March 24, 1874 [SBDMT]: “Arrived. Schoooner Matinee, Chambers, captain, from San Miguel Island.”
May 2, 1874 [SBDMT]: “The schooner Matinee, for San Miguel Island, sailed at 2 P.M. yesterday.”
May 16, 1874 [SBDMT]: “The schooner Matinee, Thompson, Master, with Messrs. Sackett and Dean and a number of laborers sailed for San Miguel yesterday morning.”
August 24, 1874 [SBDP]: “The schooner Matinee, Captain Thompson, from San Miguel Island with forty-one bales of wool, owned by the Pacific Wool Growing Company, and going to San Francisco, is in port.”
May 8, 1875 [SDU]: “San Francisco, May 7. Arrived — United States steamer Richard Rush, from San Miguel Island.”
June 1, 1875 [SBDP]: “Loading. The schooner Toccas is loading at the end of the wharf a number of thousand feet of lumber for San Miguel Island. There must be some building going on in that part of the ocean.”
June 10, 1875 [SBDP]: “The Matinee left this morning for San Miguel Island to bring over a cargo of wool.”
June 15, 1875 [SBDN]: “Matinee. The schooner Matinee arrived yesterday from San Miguel Island.”
June 23, 1875 [SBDP]: “The schooner Matinee, Thompson, master, and the schooner Star of Freedom, Chase, master, came into port yesterday—the former from San Miguel Island and the latter from Santa Cruz.”
September 18, 1875 [SBDN]: “The schooner Matinee arrived from San Miguel Island yesterday morning.”
December 27, 1875 [SBDN]: “The sloop New Wonder came over from San Miguel Island yesterday and brought 53 sacks of abalones.”
: “Little attention was paid to this most valuable archaeological discovery [San Nicolas Island] until 1872 and 1873 when Mr. W. G. W. Harford, of the United States Coast Survey, happened on the islands of San Miguel and Santa Rosa, lying to the northward and westward of the islands before mentioned. From these islands this gentleman procured a small but exceedingly valuable collection of interesting objects, which came into the hands of Mr. William Dall, a most intelligent and enthusiastic collector, from which he deemed the locality of sufficient importance to visit it in person. This he did in the winter of 1873 and 1874. Mr. Dall visited San Miguel and Santa Catalina, but as his time was limited, no thorough examination was made of this mine of archaeological wealth lying then temptingly open to view. He, however, procured many interesting specimens…” [Wheeler, George. Annual Report upon the Geographical Surveys west of the one hundredth meridian, in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, and Montana. Appendix JJ. Washington:GPO, 1876.]
April 7, 1876 [SBDN]: “Yesterday morning the schooner Alma from San Miguel Island arrived bringing 20 sacks of abalones. She was en route for San Francisco, but being blown far out of her course put in at this place.”
April 22, 1876 [SDU]: “San Francisco Academy of Sciences… The following list of donations was read: …thirty-three specimens of minerals, comprising iron, copper, amber, cinnabar, etc. by Wm. G. Blunt, California Street; locality, San Miguel Island.”
August 11, 1876 [SBDP]: “Loss of the schooner Leader on San Miguel Island. The schooner Leader, Captain Charles Ludgings, which has long been navigated on the bay of San Francisco and tributary rivers, was recently chartered for a fishing and sealing expedition along the coast of southern California. On the 17th day of June last, the schooner was anchored on the weather side of San Miguel Island when a severe squall struck her, and, despite the efforts of the crew, she was driven ashore and is now a total wreck. The proceeds of their expedition up to that time, and all of the contents of the vessel were saved. No lives were lost. The crew, six in number, established themselves on a large rock a mile or two from the main island, and prosecuted their sealing business, with the aid of their small boats, for about four weeks, and watching in the meantime for a vessel to rescue them. At the end of that time their supply of provisions became so much reduced, it was decided that assistance must soon be obtained in some way. Two men were accordingly dispatched in a skiff to Santa Rosa Island for Captain Thompson of the Matinee. He accordingly sailed to San Miguel and picked up the unfortunate men and brought them, their forty barrels of seal oil and other effects, to this city, where they arrived yesterday. They began shipping their oil, etc. to San Francisco on the next steamer. The schooner was owned and insured in San Francisco, which was her home port.”
January 14, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise arrived this morning from San Miguel Island with part of a load of sheep and the sheep-shearers.”
April 17, 1879 [SBDP]: “The enterprising Rogers brothers have sent a crew of men to occupy Flea Island and other seal rookeries near San Miguel Island to take seal during June. In the meantime they will gather shells and hunt the valuable sea otter.”
May 13, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise has been due several days from San Nicolas and San Miguel Island.”
May 19, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise, from San Miguel and Flea islands, arrived this morning and lays at anchor in the harbor today.”
May 26, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise sailed for San Miguel Island this morning.”
June 12, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise arrived from the San Miguel Island last evening. The captain reports that Rogers & Brothers seal hunting party have already commenced to kill seal for oil.”
June 30, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner N. B. sails this evening for San Miguel Island.”
July 21, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise arrived Saturday with a cargo of mutton sheep from Catalina Island.”
December 30, 1879 [SFDEB]: “The schooner N.B., engaged in sea otter hunting, has gone ashore at San Miguel Island, and is a total loss.”
February 26, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise arrived from San Nicolas Island this morning and discharged 100 sacks of abalone shells and meat. She will depart tomorrow for San Miguel Island for seal oil and skins.”
October 25, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, H. W. Mills, Captain, arrived from San Miguel Island Sunday morning having a hundred fat sheep on board for the Santa Barbara butchers.”
November 8, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Mills, sailed for San Miguel Island yesterday morning.”
April 30, 1881 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy arrived here yesterday from San Miguel Island. She brought with her the schooner Surprise, which went ashore on the island some time since, and was given up by her owner as a total loss. A few repairs will place the Surprise in as fine trim as ever.”
May 7, 1881 [SBWP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Thompson, arrived here yesterday from San Miguel Island. She brought with her the schooner Surprise which went ashore on the island some time since, and was given up by her owner as a total loss. A few repairs will place the Surprise in as fine trim as ever.”
May 31, 1881 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Mills, sailed for San Miguel Island yesterday.”
June 22, 1881 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy sailed for San Miguel Island last night with calves and horses. On her return the latter part of this week, she will make a trip to Anacapa Island seal hunting.”
July 16, 1881 [SBDP]: “Thursday last the schooner Convoy, Captain Mills, brought twelve sea lions over from the island. They are to be shipped to San Francisco this evening on the Senator.”
March 12, 1883 [SBDP]: “Larco’s schooner is also in port with a cargo of abalone shells, seal skins and otter skins from San Miguel Island.”
June 22, 1883 [Semi-weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY]: “Three acres of eggs.—A Santa Barbara fisherman has discovered, near San Miguel Island, a smaller island, about three acres in extent, which is probably the largest nest of eggs in the world. The island is covered with a lawyer of guano in which sea fowls of all descriptions were found laying or incubating their eggs. The surface appeared to be almost covered with eggs, principally those of the sea gulls, shags, and a small bird known as the salt-water duck. The discoverer says it was difficult to walk without treading upon the eggs, and that it would be wasy to load a ship with them. [San Francisco Alta].”
June 1886: Ornithologist Clark P. Streator visited the island and commented “By following a steep trail to the mesa we observe a fine pasture almost as far as the eye extends, but on reaching other parts of the Island I found it barren, and half of the area drifting sand. It altogether contains 13,000 acres, and is stocked with the choicest horses, cattle and sheep. At one time the island was densely populated with Indians, which is well proven by shell heaps that cover hundreds of acres, and in some places to the depth of ten feet or more.”
July 1, 1886 [LADT]: “The bald eagles on San Miguel Island are very destructive to sheep and lambs — Santa Barbara Independent.”
August 4, 1887 [SBMP]: “The latest sensational real estate deal is that of W. H. Mills, owner of the San Miguel Island that lies off the main land some thirty or forty miles. He intends, so he says, to lay off his island into a town, and is quite enthusiastic over his venture. A steam yacht with a capacity of fifteen or twenty knots per hour will be put on to run between the island and Santa Barbara, and the fare will be put at so low a figure that the most needy can afford to visit the town quite often. He is to name the town Vienna, and has engaged the services of George Collins to survey the tract most suitable for the purpose.”
August 10, 1887 [SBMP]: “Brother Bowers, of the Ventura Free Press, hearing that Mr. Mills is to plant a town on San Miguel Island to be named Vienna, bats the scheme this back-handed lick: "We have a distinct remembrance of having explored that windswept island after several other parties had been driven back by sandstorms. We were met by a merciless sandstorm on the day of our entrance upon the island, but we remained for ten days and explored it thoroughly. It is in the shape of a triangle, seven by three miles in extent, and rises in the center to a height of 800 feet. At the time we refer to (1876) it was owned by the Government and reserved for military purposes. We have not heard of the Government selling it."”
August 11, 1887 [SBMP]: “Brother Bowers of the Ventura Free Press, hearing that Mr. Mills of Santa Barbara is to plant a town on San Miguel Island to be named Vienna, hits the scheme this back-handed lick: ‘We have a distinct remembrance of having explored that wind-swept island after several other parties had been driven back by sandstorms. We were met by a merciless sandstorm on the day of our entrance upon the island, but we remained for ten days and explored it thoroughly. It is in the shape of a triangle, seven by three miles in extent, and rises in the center to a height of 800 feet. At the time we refer to, (1876) it was owned by the government and reserved for military purposes. We have not heard of the government selling it.”
June 4, 1888 James Read is hired to work on San Miguel Island for Capt. Waters and W. I Nichols. He, his wife Anne, and six of their children move to the island for about two years.
September 24, 1888 [SBDI]: “H. G. Harvey will leave for San Francisco Tuesday to bring his new steam yacht Lillian, built expressly for him, to Santa Barbara. He will bring as a cargo 35,000 feet of lumber to be used in constructing a hotel on San Miguel Island. The gentlemen interested are Judge W. I. Nichols and W. G. Waters, the owner of the island. The intention is to build a first class rustic hotel, with eating accommodations for about 100 guests. All the beef, mutton and fish used will be from the island, and parties going over will live as well, if not better, than on the mainland. In connection with the hotel scheme, the steam yacht Lillian will convey passengers across the channel and will run excursions during the winter. The boat will be a welcomed addition to Santa Barbara’s fleet, and she already has work enough to keep her busy for some time. The site for the hotel has been selected and work will be commenced as soon as the material arrives.”
December 11, 1888 [LAT]: “…Morrow introduced a bill establishing lighthouses at Deadman’s Island, at the east end of Anacapa Island, $25,000; and on San Miguel Island at the west end of Santa Barbara Channel, $25,000…”
April 20, 1889 [SBMP]: “Residents of San Miguel Island indignantly deny that smugglers make that island a base for their operations.”
July 30, 1890 [SBMP]: “An unknown body was found on San Miguel Island. Captain W. G. Waters and L. D. Hardy, sent word yesterday to Coroner Ruiz, from San Miguel Island, of the finding of the dead body of a man on the beach of the island last Sunday. He was five feet nine inches in height, had a rubber boot, with short leg, on the right foot but none on the left; a portion of black cloth pants was on the right leg. Only a small portion of dark brown hair was left on the head, the scalp being almost entirely gone. There were no marks on the body and it had the appearance of having been in the water a long time. The head and face were so much disfigured that no beard was visible. Mrs. Hardy was with her husband when the discovery was made. The body was not buried then and upon his return to the spot, it had washed out to sea.”
July 14, 1891 [LAT]: “Struck a rock. A boat wrecked and two men and a boy drowned. Word was brought last evening of the drowning of two men and a Negro boy near San Miguel Island last Monday. The men and boy were in a boat engaged in a seal hunt. They attempted to make a landing while a heavy sea was running. The boat struck a rock, throwing all out, and all were drowned except one man, who was rescued after clinging to the rock for twenty-four hours. The body of one of the drowned men was recovered and brought here in the sloop Liberty.”
July 20, 1892 [SBMP]: “Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors. The Board reestablished the boundaries of the third Supervisor District… including also the islands of Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Anacapa…”
June 24, 1892 [SFCall]: “Arrived. Tuesday, June 23. Steamer Santa Cruz, [Captain] Tribble, 44 hours from San Miguel Island; livestock to Goodall, Perkins & Co.”
August 14, 1892 [SBMP]: “Two of the disconsolate but now happy young men of Santa Barbara tendered a reception at Unity Hall last evening to the San Miguel [Island] Wanderers who visited that No-Man’s-Land on a voyage of exploration and a large amount of sea sickness and other pleasures too numerous to mention...”
March 25, 1895 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Dally of the sloop Liberty, which arrived from San Miguel Island on Saturday, reports the ground in Cuyler’s Harbor is still moving, and that the shoreline has advanced fully one hundred feet since his last trip across. The account of these convulsions, published in a San Francisco paper and purporting to come from a correspondent who has visited the island since these disturbances began, was ‘faked’ from beginning to end.”
April 7, 1895 [SBMP]: “Real estate is lively at San Miguel Island, the earth heaving it up until the anchorage has climbed a tree. The unhappy owner is disconsolate and would be glad to know how to hold it down.”
April 14, 1895 [SFCall]: ““One of nature’s convulsions. San Miguel Island, April. It has fallen to my lot to present the readers of the Call with the first accurate and reliable account, from the testimony of an eye witness, of the mysterious convulsions that have taken place at Cuyler’s Harbor on San Miguel Island, completely changing the aspect of the harbor along its inner shore…
November 6, 1895 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Ferdinand Westdahl of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey is in Santa Barbara. The object of his visit is to make a thorough survey of San Miguel Island. It is reported that his recommendations will include either a lighthouse on the island or a whistling buoy.”
December 22, 1895 [SBMP]: “Wants San Miguel… ‘Tis said John Bull has his eye on the island. Claims that it was not included in the Treaty made when this state was ceded after the Mexican War… The technicality consists in a defect or omission in the treaty made just after the close of the Mexican War… This is the ground upon which our neighbor John Bull thinks he has a chance to increase his territorial wealth… It is true that Captain Waters claims the island by right of location and continuous residence…”
May 22, 1896 [LAT/SB]: “The Gedney has returned from her surveying trip to San Miguel Island and is anchored near Stearn’s Wharf. Along side her is the graceful Madroño, the lighthouse tender. On the other side is Burtis’ boat and the Santa Rosa Island craft… The Gedney, Captain Osborne, has just completed the re-survey of San Miguel Island and found the shoreline considerably shortened. The island contains about 13,000 acres of choice grazing land and Captain Waters, owner of the island, said this morning there is an abundance of the best feed and all the stock is fat. There is an unlimited supply of the purest of water there, which it is thought, comes from the high mountain ranges of the mainland. It is said the larger islands are suffering somewhat from drought.”
July 8, 1896 [LAT]: “Invading an island. San Miguel’s inhabitants objected to a government survey… United States Marshal Nick Covarrubias and twelve deputies will leave here this morning on order of the United States government, to forcibly take possession of San Miguel Island, to protect the government survey which the occupants will not allow…”
July 10, 1896 [LAT/SB]: “People were perfectly willing that Nick Covarrubias should come here and go with the United States surveyor to survey San Miguel Island. They were also perfectly willing that Nick should employ as many citizens as he saw fit, at $5 a day, to go with him, but all this talk about ‘capturing San Miguel Island’ is, as Attorney McNulta says, ‘rot.’”
July 12, 1896 [LAT/SB]: “The United States flag was raised for the first time over San Miguel Island this morning by United States Marshal Covarrubias, who went there pursuant to instructions from President Cleveland…”
July 12, 1896 [SFCall]: “Santa Barbara, July 11. The war sloop Restless, which sailed for San Miguel Island several days ago, carrying a party of government surveyors and United States Marshall Covarrubias with a band of armed men, to take possession of the island in the name of the United States Government, returned tonight. It reports that Captain Waters, the undisputed ‘King’ of the island for many years, submitted without a struggle.”
July 14, 1896 [LAT]: “San Miguel. Marshal Covarrubias returns from a successful journey. How an island was annexed to the United States. Captain Waters fears his domain will be declared public property. The invasion over San Miguel, a conquered land, has been annexed to the domains of the United States of America, and Marshal Covarrubias is once more in town. As was related in the Times some days ago, the owner of San Miguel Island, claiming it had never become a part of the republic, refused to allow the United States Deputy Surveyor detailed to survey the island, to proceed with his task. James R. Glover referred the matter to W. S. Green, Surveyor General of California, and so at last the matter came to the personal attention of President Cleveland. His Excellency, in his own small hand, wrote orders for the United States Marshal in person or by deputies, to furnish all necessary aid and support to the surveyor. A week ago today Marshal Covarrubias went to Santa Barbara. There he hired the sloop Restless, provisioned the boat for a cruise, engaged lots of deputies at $5 a day and dispatched the vessel… to San Miguel Island…”
July 25, 1896 [LAT/SB]: “The surveying party returned yesterday from San Miguel Island, having completed its labors in that little field of 14,000 acres.”
July 28, 1896 [LAT]: “As to kingdoms, an unmerited attack upon the United States marshal. What Marshal Covarrubias got for doing his duty. Maintained the government’s authority on an island and ousted a squatter… San Miguel Island yields a comfortable income to its owner, supports great herds of horses, cattle and sheep and is inhabited by a number of people. The records show the owner, Captain Waters, interfered with the work of the United States surveyors, and claimed the government had no right to land its officials upon his domain. A threat was made to resist with force any attempt of the surveyor to carry out his orders. The surveyor asked for support. The matter passed through the proper channels and at last President Cleveland wrote on the back of a bundle of papers dealing with the case autograph instructions for the United States marshal to furnish support in person or by deputies. Marshal Covarrubias obeyed the orders of his superior officer…”
October 1, 1896 [LAT/SB]: “United States Marshal N. A. Covarrubias came up from Los Angeles yesterday to pay off the men who went with him when he took possession of San Miguel Island, under instructions from President Cleveland last June. In conversation with a Times correspondent, he stated last evening that the island matter has been carried as far as it will be, for the present, by the government, as the desired point has been attained, that of establishing government title to the island…”
June 22, 1896 [LAT/SB]: “Mr. and Mrs. Charles Curryer and Albert Neely and his mother area awaiting the return of the schooner Restless from Santa Cruz Island, for an opportunity to go to San Miguel Island to spend the summer.”
June 29, 1897 [SBMP]: “Captain Waters returned from his San Miguel Island home yesterday, after an absence from this city of over two months. He reports lots of good healthy wind during the past spring, and plenty of feed for man and beast. His foreman, Mr. Charles Curryer, who has been on the island for more than a year, expects to pay the mainland a visit the next trip the boat makes. He will be accompanied by his wife.”
July 21, 1897 [SBDN]: “H. L. Collier, United States Examiner of Surveys, and a party of surveyors, is in the city for the purpose of making a resurvey of San Miguel Island. In an interview had with Mr. Collier [regarding] the object of his presence here he replied: ‘I have nothing whatever to do with the controversy between Captain Waters and the United States government. That is entirely a question to be decided by the courts. The Interior Department has always regarded San Miguel Island as belonging to the United States and will not relinquish the claims until compelled to do so by the highest judicial tribunal. My mission in California is simply the examination of the Benson survey, which covered the period from 1878 to 1896… After the examination of the surveys of San Miguel Island, which I think will take about six days, I shall go to Los Olivos…’ Mr. Collier and party have chartered the Lizzie Belle W for the purpose.”
July 22, 1897 [SBMP]: “Charles Curryer and wife have arrived here from San Miguel Island after an absence from the mainland of over a year. Mr. Curryer goes with Captain Burtis on the schooner Restless today to San Pedro where the vessel will be copper-bottomed before returning.”
July 22, 1897 [LAT/SB]: “H. L. Collier, United States Examiner of Surveys, is in town. He arrived Tuesday from San Francisco. It is reported that he will investigate the surveys of San Miguel Island made under the Benson Commission during the period of 1878-1896.”
May 14, 1898 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Alta, Captain Farwell, came in from San Miguel Island yesterday, loaded with guano.”
January 29, 1900 [SBDI]: “A lady by the name of Mrs. Stevens was brought over from San Miguel Island yesterday morning in a very sick condition. She had been working there for the past two months.”
March 9, 1901 [SBMP]: “Mammoth mushrooms. A photograph of mushrooms grown on San Miguel Island and now posted in the Press office window shows that San Miguel holds the medal. One of them measures 9-1/2 inches across, and the owner of the photograph asserts that he could have gathered bushels of them six inches in diameter. The largest one weighed three pounds and was a good as it was large.”
December 1, 1903 [SBMP]: “During the past month 1.31 inches of rain fell on San Miguel Island, according to observer Waters.”
1904: Arklee Gillian Rawlins (1870-1961), her husband Richard (1862-1941), and their two children, Franny, age 2, and Richard, age 4, lived on San Miguel Island as caretakers for Captain Waters. In 1904 Arklee wrote a brief account of her experiences. » Rawlins, Arklee Gillian Life on San Miguel Island in the Year of 1903. Pp. 52-59 Daily, Marla (ed.), in A Step Back In Time: Unpublished Channel Islands Diaries. Santa Cruz Island Foundation Occasional Paper Number 4, 1990 (1995).
March 19, 1906 [SFCall]: “San Miguel — It is recommended that a light station be established on San Miguel Island.”
March 19, 1906 [LAH]: “More signal lights asked for on coast… It is also recommended that light stations be established at Catalina Island, San Miguel Island and the east end of Anacapa Island.”
May 15, 1906 [SBI]: “San Miguel Island to be exploited for oil. Mysterious trip is made by alleged experts of the Standard Oil to the island with apparent satisfaction. If certain facts which have just become known are correct, it is ore than probable that the island of San Miguel will be the scene of extensive oil drilling operations within the next thirty or sixty days… The Independent called on Captain Merry today and questioned him about the trip. He was somewhat reluctant to speak… Captain Waters, who claims a possessory title over the island, is at present attending a G. A. R. encampment…”
June 10, 1908 [SBI]: “Captain Vasquez will leave for San Miguel Island tomorrow with Captain W. G. Waters, who is building a large ranch house on his property there. The building will be handsomely finished and will serve as a summer home for Captain Waters.”
July 24, 1908 [LAH]: “Redondo Beach, July 23. For the third time in ten weeks the newsstand and store of W. J. Hess was robbed last night. Mr. Hess is absent on the tug Redondo at San Miguel Island.”
August 4, 1908 [SFCall]: “Sailed. Monday, August 3. Steamer Fulton, [Captain] Maloney, San Miguel Island (wreck of German steamer Anubis).”
August 14, 1908 [SFCall]: “Arrived. August 14. U. S. steamer Danial Manning, from San Miguel Island.”
August 17, 1908 [SFCall]: “Arrived. Sunday, August 16. Steamer Fulton, [Captain] Maloney, 47 hours from San Miguel Island.”
1910 San Miguel Island Census two residents are listed: Lewis Ward, age 60, and his wife, Lillian, age 56, lived on San Miguel Island and had been married 35 years when the 1910 United States census was taken. They were from Massachusetts, and he is listed as a farmer.
August 24, 1910 [SBMP]: “The Charm, Captain Henry Short, will leave Thursday for San Miguel Island with Mrs. Ward, wife of the foreman of the island ranch, who has been spending a few weeks here, the guest of Mrs. Ercanbreck and family. She also visited friends in San José.”
May 8, 1912 [SBI]: “Lysle Smith has returned from San Miguel island where he has been working for the last seven weeks.”
February 14, 1913 [LAT]: “Wilson is interested. President-elect evinces appreciation of national leper colony project for San Miguel Island… San Miguel Island, instead of San Clemente, may become home for the colony, because a water supply can be obtained there…”
March 1, 1913 [SBMP]: “Anxious inquiries continue to come from Los Angeles as the the whereabouts of the launch Edna B, which has been missing since last November. This is about a forty-five foot yacht, built for passenger business, and it was last seen in the vicinity of San Miguel Island. Reports were received of the wreck of the boat on that island, but search there failed to reveal any such trace of such a disaster.”
July 1, 1913 [SBMP]: “Captain swept from deck near San Miguel. Master of schooner Louise is drowned as vessel passes Channel Island. The schooner Louise, reaching San Pedro yesterday with the flag half-mast, reported that her master, Captain Adolf Anderson had been swept overboard and drowned off San Miguel Island. Captain Anderson and the mate undertook to shift the spanker topsail. The tack broke when the vessel gave a heavy roll, carrying the Captain Anderson overboard. The schooner was put about and the search for the Captain kept up for nearly an hour, but nothing except a piece of rope could be found.”
January 28, 1914 [SBMP]: “That the Union Oil tanker reported ashore at San Clemente Island is really at San Miguel is an unconfirmed report that is received here.”
September 26, 1917 [SBDN]: “Government engineers have recommended a lighthouse for San Miguel Island, and it is understood that an appropriation for the lighthouse has been made by Congress. This will be interesting news for the mariners who have long urged the improvement, as a safeguard for coastwise shipping. It is explained that seamen are continually mistaking the Arguello and Point Conception, to a rocky shore known as the graveyard of ships. Into that hollow the steamer Santa Rosa went down, it is said as a result of confusion of mariners. The San Miguel light will be erected on a line with the light at Point Conception, and by the two the shoreline can be more easily identified during the night, and the graveyard of ships avoided.”
1920 San Miguel Island Census two residents are listed: John Russell, age 60, and his wife, Ada, age 58. They lived on San Miguel Island when the 1920 United States census was taken.
April 1, 1920 [ODC]: “San Miguel Island has been leased for another term of five years at the rate of $200 a year. The lessees are Robert L. Brooks and James R. Moore of Los Angeles, who have been in charge of the island since the lease of Captain W. G. Waters expired. The island is used mostly for grazing purposes and has the reputation of being very windy. Water is reported scarce. The land represented is seven and one half miles long and two miles wide.”
October 14, 1925 [SBMP]: “Two fishermen saved from sea with disabled engine, Avila men are taken in tow off islands, Joe Woods and George Belleau, Avila fishermen, were rescued by Joe Shattuck, Perry and George Holden, after they had drifted in a storm in the Santa Barbara Channel for several days. They were sighted Monday drifting toward the westerly end of San Miguel Island. The men had planned to be out one day but when 12 miles out in the channel their engine broke down leaving them helpless. They were caught in a strong current and carried out to sea 25 miles.”
June 5, 1926 [LAT]: “Reports Aimee Semple McPherson alive and well… From Santa Barbara yesterday came information that two men with field glasses had engaged Captain Robert Ord to take them to San Miguel Island last Monday. During the trip, they continually scanned the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel and made remarks indicating to Captain Ord they thought Mrs. McPherson’s body was afloat in the Santa Barbara Channel or that she had been taken alive to San Miguel Island. Captain Ord discounted the latter theory, as the island has only one known inhabitant.”
1930 San Miguel Island Census:
- Herbert S. Lester, (38) White, married. Illinois.
- Elizabeth Lester, (36) White, married. New York.
- Frank Valdez, White, (20), single. California. Ranch hand.
- Frank Garibaldi (52), White, widowed. California. Sheep shearer.
- Arno Ducazan (53), single. California. Laborer.
- Fred Maguel [Fred Manjoul] (55), Mexican, single. California. Sheep shearer.
- John Carpenter (45), White, divorced. California. Sheep shearer.
- Clem Lechona [Clemente Watchina?] (52), Indian, widowed. California. Sheep shearer.
- Raymond Arrietta (63), Indian, single. California. Sheep shearer.
May 20, 1936: “Dear Sir, With reference to your recent inquiries regarding San Miguel Island you are advised that Mr. R. L. Brooks is now occupying this island for sheep grazing purposes under authority of a revocable permit issued by the Secretary of the Navy on April 1, 1935 and extended July 1, 1935 for an indeterminate period on a month to month basis, and at a rental of $50.00 per month payable in advance. This permit, among other things, requires the Permittee to restrict the quantity of livestock on the island as may be reasonable and necessary in connection with such erosion control plans which may be formulated by the Government. The exact number of sheep on the island at present is not known at this time, but is believed to be in the neighborhood of 800 head. Pending the formulation of further plans for the future use and management of this island by the Navy, no change is contemplated in the present permit. The inadvertent delay in replying to your inquiry is regretted and it is hoped that the foregoing will give you the information you desire. Very truly yours, Geo. A. McKay, Captain (CEC) USN., Public Works Officer.” [Letter: G. A. McKay to H. G. Staab, National Archives and Records Administration Paific Region (Laguna Nigel)]
- November 7, 1934 San Miguel Island and Prince Island were transferred to the control and jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Navy by Executive Order No. 6896, reservation being made for the use of the Department of Commerce of sites to be selected on which to erect and maintain such aids to navigation and incidental facilities as the Secretary of Commerce might consider desirable.
December 12, 1938 Department of the Navy, Office of the Secretary, Washington: “Sir: Receipt is acknowledged of the Acting Secretary of the Interior’s letter of 2 December 1938, regarding the protection of the scientific values of San Miguel Island… In accordance with Executive Order No. 6896, dated 7 November 1934, the island was transferred from the control and jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce to that of the Navy Department. The transfer was subject to existing private rights and vested interests, which, in the case of San Miguel, consisted of a revocable lease to Mr. Robert L. Brooks of Los Angeles, California, for occupying San Miguel Island at an annual rate of $600, which license would expire 31 March 1935. Mr. Brooks has been occupying San Miguel Island since 1916. During his tenancy he had reclaimed from 1200 to 1500 acres of land by planting vegetation. He had at no time run over 2000 breeding ewes on the island…”
1940 San Miguel Island Census:
- Herbert S. Lester,
- Alys [Elise] Lester
- Betsy Miguel Lester
- Mary Lou [Marianne]
October 11, 1948 [SBNP]: “Sheep taken off dry, bare San Miguel. Within the last two months as many as possible of the sheep on San Miguel Island have been rounded up and shipped off to market. Because of the severe drought all over Southern California during the past year the island has been stripped nearly bare of vegetation. Then lying as it does right off Point Conception it is in the path of a very strong almost constant Northwest wind. At present there is hardly enough feed left to support the 200 odd head that are left there. About 1500 were taken off. One barge load of sheep at a time was driven down to the beach and herded into a leading pen. One man hazed them up the ramp while the rest of the crew drove them down the ramp into the barge. Most of the supplies for the island are hauled over by air. Mr. and Mrs. Baglin, the island’s permanent residents as caretakers for Robert Brooks of Carpinteria who holds the lease on the island, help Russell Robinson unload his plane.”
1950: [Don Butler interview June 11, 1992]: “The Rio Grande was the tugboat we pulled the barge with... It [barge] was a landing craft but no engine in it, so we had to pull it. We decked it so we had two decks — a lower deck that we could put sheep down below and up above. [When we vacated San Miguel Island in 1950] we took the decking and we had three or four horses and the jeep and whatever we could gather on this place. Pulled them into Santa Barbara...”
1980 ~ Channel Islands National Park was created on March 5, 1980 when President Carter signed Public Law 96-199, which calls for the protection of
- the nationally significant natural, scenic, wildlife, marine, ecological, archaeological, cultural, and scientific values of the Channel Islands in the State of California.
September 5, 2014 [Scripps Media]: “Contract awarded to assess risk for legacy ordnance on San Miguel Island, Calif. — Navy officials have awarded a contract to Chicago Iron & Bridge Company to assess risk from any unexploded artillery on San Miguel Island. In April, the Navy closed the island, part of Channel Islands National Park, because of concerns about possible unexploded ordnance left over from decades of use as a bombing range. San Miguel, owned by the Navy and managed by the National Park Service, was an active bombing range from World War II through the 1970s. The decision to close access to the public has been criticized with some saying the Navy overreacted since there have been no problems. In a statement released Friday, Capt. Larry Vasquez, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County, said closing the island was a difficult decision. He called awarding the contract "a major step" toward restoring access. The 292,000 contract will pay for the company to survey to assess risk, Navy officials said. That work is expected to take one year, but the timeline may be extended if ordnance is found.”
December 8, 2015 [Independent]: “San Miguel Island Close to Reopening? By Tyler Hayden. San Miguel Island may soon reopen after its hard closure in April 2014 as the Navy searched for unexploded bombs left over from the island’s days as a military test range. During sweeps last spring along 18 miles of trails and in camping areas, the Navy removed 125 pounds of bomb fragments, fuses, and shards, many of which were located “just under the surface” of the terrain, military officials said. “Public safety is our No. 1 concern,” said Captain Larry Vasquez at the time. “Closing the island to the public was a difficult decision, but these results show it was the right decision.” Military officials also noted, however, that “unexploded ordnance may still exist anywhere on the island, where soft sand and dense vegetation may hide its presence.” The springtime surveys — the only safety sweeps carried out during the closure — covered less than one percent of the 14-mile-square island. Russell Galipeau, Channel Islands National Park Superintendent, said the Park Service and the Navy are hammering out the final details of a reopening and management agreement that could get visitors back on the island as soon as the beginning of 2016. “We’re getting very close,” he said. (The Navy owns the land as part of its Pacific Test Range, but the Park Service manages and supervises public visits.) Galipeau and others — including Congressmember Lois Capps, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Marla Daily with the Santa Cruz Island Foundation — were curious and skeptical about the military’s decision to close the island, expressing concern with the lack of transparency around the abrupt shutdown. They wondered why, after decades of ranchers, rangers, scientists, and hikers tromping around the archipelago without incident, the Navy suddenly became so nervous about public safety, and why Vasquez wouldn’t elaborate on the “grave concerns” he obliquely referred to in his letter announcing the closure. “It is a pleasure to share [the island] and its history with America, and we are very disappointed that a more collaborative approach was not taken with this closure,” Galipeau wrote to Vasquez last summer. But whatever governmental tension was generated back then seems to have largely dissipated, helped in part by Vasquez and his oversight of the island being replaced by the leadership of Captain Chris Janke at Naval Base Ventura County. “We’re back to where we were,” said Galipeau of relations between the Navy and National Park Service. “Captain Janke has been great to work with.” Before last year’s closure, Galipeau had petitioned the Navy on more than one occasion to transfer ownership of San Miguel Island to the National Park Service. Those talks petered out with the announcement of the shutdown, but Galipeau didn’t rule out the possibility that they’d restart sometime soon. “Even if the transfer happens,” Galipeau explained, “we would of course still work with the military if national security needs arise.”
May 4, 2016 : “San Miguel Island, closed by the Navy in 2014, will be reopened to the public on May 17. The remote island—visited by fewer than 200 people per year when open to tourists—boasts beautiful views, scenic hikes and a huge sea lion rookery. San Miguel Island is the westernmost island of the eight Channel Islands, about 55 miles from Ventura, according to the National Park Service (NPS). It's eight miles long and four miles wide, consisting of 9,379 acres. Despite the fact that 18 million people live within 100 miles of the park, the island feels very removed from civilization, Yvonne Menard, Channel Islands National Park Chief of Interpretation & Public Information Officer, tells LAist. "It's like taking a trip back in time to go back to California like it was many years ago," she said. The Channel Islands are owned by a number of different agencies. San Clemente and San Nicholas are also owned by the Navy, while Catalina is managed by the Catalina Island Conservancy. The Channel Islands National Park consists of five islands: Santa Rosa, Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and San Miguel. San Miguel, though within the Park, is also owned by the Navy and managed by NPS via an agreement. In 2014, the Navy decided to close the park over concerns of pubic safety. In particular, they were worried about possible unexploded ordnance (UXO), or any sort of explosive weapon—such as bombs, grenades, land mines and the like—that did not explode when they were used and could possibly later detonate and cause harm. "San Miguel was an active bombing range in WWII and through to the '70s, so for the past two years, the Navy has been working to ensure public safety by conducting a risk assessment and survey of the island," Menard said. "They also established new agreements with the park service so visitors, as of May 17, can go back to the island." As before, guests will need to be joined by a ranger beyond the ranger station. This is a policy that's been in place for several decades, Menard said. If rangers are not available, the island will be closed, though NPS works diligently to make it accessible. Visitors will also have to sign an access permit and liability waivers, which can be found at the boat and air concession offices. Private boaters may self-register at a station at the trailhead on the beach. Most visitors choose to come by boat. If you do so, you will land at Cuyler Harbor, which Menard described as a mile-long beach with gorgeous, blue waters. From there, guests will climb up a sand dune to the trailhead and ascend through Nidever Canyon, which Menard said is full of wildflowers.”
May 5, 2016 [SB Independent]: “The U.S. Navy announced that on 5/16 it will reopen San Miguel Island to the public in time for the summer season, more than two years after it closed the former bombing range to look for unexploded ordnance. The discovery of potentially dangerous, but ultimately harmless, materials prompted the closure. The Navy surveyed 18 miles of marked trails and high-use areas and found 125 munition items, such as practice bombs, bomb fragments, and fuses. No explosives were discovered, but visitors must now sign an access permit and liability waiver to access the property. The Navy also said the island won’t be open if there isn’t a ranger to escort visitors.”
May 7, 2016 [LAT]: “San Miguel Island reopening to hikers after two-year closure. San Miguel Island, the most remote of California's Channel Islands, is reopening to the public after a two-year closure, the National Park Service has announced. The island, set to reopen May 17, was closed due to concerns over old weaponry and unexploded ammunition from nearly three decades of Navy tests. San Miguel was an active bombing range during World War II and through the 1970s. The Navy has been sweeping the island for possible unexploded ordnance since 2014. Surveys of 18 miles of marked trails and high-use areas included searches for surface and underground bombs. Although no highly explosive items were found, 125 pounds of munition items — including practice bombs, bomb fragments and fuses — were removed. San Miguel is the westernmost of the Channel Islands, about 55 miles from Ventura. The 8-mile-long island is home to more than 100,000 seals and sea lions that breed and haul out on the beaches each year. The island will not be open in areas without a ranger or other park personnel available to escort visitors. In addition to boat trips, visitors can now fly to the island via Channel Islands Aviation at Camarillo airport.”