Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island (Scorpion Harbor, Scorpion Bay, East End Anchorage)

From Islapedia
Scorpion Harbor Pier, Santa Cruz Island, 1942
Scorpion Harbor Pier, Santa Cruz Island, 2016
Plans for a new Scorpion Harbor Pier, Santa Cruz Island, 2018
Plans for a new Scorpion Harbor Pier, Santa Cruz Island, 2018
New Scorpion Harbor Pier installation, Santa Cruz Island, 2020
Island Packers at Scorpion, 2022

Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island (Scorpion Harbor, Scorpion Bay, East End Anchorage) isolated on the east end of the island to the southeast of Cavern Point. According to Pier Gherini [1966]: “For routine supplies we depended upon the Larco fish boats which came to pick up lobsters and supply lobster camps. In consideration of receiving transportation, we granted the company the right to maintain fish camps at Potato Bay, San Pedro Point, and at Yellow Banks.” This place name appears on the Santa Cruz Island Sheet D topographic map. When the island was partitioned in 1925, this location was included in Tract No. 6 appointed to Aglae S. Capuccio. Vessels wrecked at Scorpion Harbor include: Peacock (1970s); Blazenka B (1977).

In the News~

July 16, 1876 [SBDP]: “The Santa Cruz Island Company is having a substantial wharf, supported by stone masonry, built on the eastern end of the island, in the vicinity of the old one.”

July 31, 1883 [SBDI]: “Last Saturday afternoon the Ocean King, Captain Larco in command, cast off from Stearn’s Wharf with perhaps the jolliest party that ever occupied her comfortable quarters on board. Everything had been put in the best of condition for a cruise among the islands by the most accommodating captain and his crew…In about three hours after setting sail, the vessel anchored within Scorpion Harbor on Santa Cruz Island…”

July 31, 1883 [SBDP]: “The staunch little sloop. Ocean King, Captain A. Larco, sailed from Santa Barbara last Saturday afternoon about half past two o’clock with a select party intent upon viewing the many attractions of the islands which divide the Santa Barbara channel from the main ocean. This party included district attorney Boyce, Mr. Josiah Doulton, the Court stenographer, F. P. Kelley, of the Arlington, Mr. Fred Lateward, of the U.S. Coast Survey, Mr. Hosterman, editor of the Independent, C. Whitehead, editor of the Press, F. H. Seely of Goleta, three little boys and the Doctor, the last mentioned maintaining a strict incognito from the beginning to the close of the trip. There was a fine fresh breeze blowing when the Ocean King started and as it was in our favor the run was made across the channel... Scorpion Bay is a calm placid little cove in the center of the north side of Santa Cruz Island, crescent shaped and large enough for a man-of-war to swing around in. The landing is rocky and the surroundings desolate and uninteresting. A narrow canyon leading inland from the beach contains a ranch house used by a party of shepherds. A few olive and eucalyptus trees partially shelter the house from the fierce winds which almost daily sweep down through the pass to the sea. A deserted seal and fish drying camp founded by some Chinese a few years ago was selected for a bivouac and here the explorers landed their stores. While some were scaling the adjacent highlands in pursuit of wild turkeys which abound upon the island, others explored the dark recesses of the rocky caverns around the bay...”

September 3, 1883 [SBDP]: “A Pic-nic-ers’ paradise. Santa Cruz Island has been considerably written about in your columns of late… Our party consisted of six including Captain Larco and one hand. After a delightful sail of about four hours in the Ocean King sloop, we reached Santa Cruz Island… Scorpion Harbor, the east end of the island, here we spent a part of a day and night…”

August 14, 1897 [SBMP]:La Olita arrived last night at midnight from her two weeks cruise with the party consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Newton, A. S. Hogue and Owen O’Neil. They had visited in turn Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands, San Pedro where the vessel was painted, and Avalon and the isthmus, Catalina. They returned by Santa Barbara Island, Scorpion Harbor and Friar’s Harbor, a couple of days earlier than expected. La Olita behaved beautifully and Mr. Newton is more than ever enthusiastic over her.”

September 13, 1898 [SBMP]: “Fred Moore of this city owns some fine carrier pigeons, and he has them well trained. One day last week two of his birds made the trip from Scorpion Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, to Santa Barbara, a distance of twenty-eight miles, bringing messages in forty minutes.”

June 15, 1899 [BCOC:1(85-86)]: “…I submit a few notes taken principally on the west end of the island In May, 1897. On June 5, 1895 I visited Scorpion Harbor for a few hours and landed on the square-looking rock mentioned by Mr. Mailliard…” R. H. Beck

January 22, 1902 [SBMP]: “The northwest gale that raged down the channel Sunday found the Big Loafer anchored in Scorpion Harbor, but the wind was of such severity that this shelter was of no avail. The Loafer dragged anchor, and soon was at the mercy of the sea. Driven by the wind, the sloop followed the coarse of the shore for about a mile and then was approaching a chain of rocks. Dire disaster seemed imminent when Captain Marincovich as a last resort, spread out a piece of canvas and steered out of danger... The Big Loafer finally reached a safe anchorage in Smugglers Cove, after splitting the mainsail in the effort.”

January 25, 1902 [LAT/SB]: “Frank Marincovitch returned from Santa Cruz Island Thusrday with a story of mishaps. Between wind, water and file, his sloop had a lively time, and those on board, the experience of their lives. On Sunday the Big Loafer was anchored in Scorpion Harbor, but that proved no adequate shelter from the northwest gale that was raging down the channel… After splitting the mainsail, the Big Loafer, after an eventful night, reached a safe anchorage in Smugglers Cove.”

May 27, 1902 [SBMP]: “The West Coast Fish Cannery was formerly located at Scorpion Harbor, but conditions are considered more favorable in the new location [Pelican Bay].”

August 18, 1905 [SBMP]: “The auxiliary yacht Vishnu arrived in port yesterday afternoon with a party of campers who have spent two weeks at Friar’s Harbor. The run across the channel was made in four hours... Schools of whales were encountered in the channel... While making a short trip to Scorpion Harbor at the East End of the island, four large whales were seen on Wednesday...”

December 31, 1905 [SBMP]: “Thacher School party has novel vacation. Christmas week spent at the picturesque island report... Captain Merry returned yesterday in his power launch Vishnu from Santa Cruz Island with a party of professors and students from the Thacher School of Nordhoff, who had been camping on the islands for a week. Members of the party report some very thrilling experiences on water and on land, but say that the holiday was one of the most interesting and enjoyable they had ever spent... Messrs.. W. L. Thacher, Lawrence Sperry, Dana and Starr left Ventura on Saturday and had a very pleasant voyage in the Vishnu to Prisoners’ Harbor... The second party, consisting of Messrs. E. S. Thacher, Andrew Barnes and Bliss, who remained at Nordhoff for Christmas, left Ventura in the Vishnu on Tuesday morning and experienced a very rough voyage on crossing the channel against a strong northwest wind. For hours the starry little Vishnu breasted the storm that was the worst Captain Merry had seen in the channel for years, but arrived in Scorpion Harbor in safety... They left Scorpion Harbor on Wednesday afternoon...”

January 1, 1906 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Merry returned yesterday in his power launch Vishnu from Santa Cruz Island, with a party of professors and students from the Thacher School of Nordhoff, who had been camping on the island for a week… For twenty-three hours the sturdy little Vishnu breasted a storm that was the worst Captain Merry has ever seen in the channel for years, but arrived in Scorpion Harbor in safety…”

April 16, 1907 [SBMP]: The launch Santa Cruz left yesterday afternoon with a company of workmen aboard for Scorpion Harbor at the east end of the island. They will be employed for the next week or two fixing the corrals and sheds and making ready generally for sheep shearing operations.”

July 17, 1908 [OC]: “Party of Hueneme men goes to Anacapa… On their return Sunday night they ran into a sudden squall and had to put up for the night in Scorpion Bay, where they found the launch Anacapa had also been driven in…”

July 24, 1908 [OC]: “Boys catch many fish in cruise. Make trip to Anacapa and Santa Cruz… For the night they anchored in Scorpion Bay…”

November 11, 1908 [SBI]: “Word was received in Santa Barbara today that an Italian fisherman named Lucero was drowned off Santa Cruz Island last Saturday while fishing. Although details of the accident are meager, it is understood that Lucero was engaged in crawfishing. Whether the skiff was overturned by Lucero, while pulling up his traps, or whether it was capsized by a wave, is not known. The skiff drifted in later, however, as mute evidence of the death of its occupant. Yesterday brother fishermen were still looking for the body of the drowned man, but last night no trace of it had been found. It is thought the body became lodged in the kelp beds where it is probably held. Lucero was working at the Scorpion Camp on the south side of Santa Cruz Island. The sea has been running high for several days and on the south side of Santa Cruz in particular the water has been very rough.”

November 21, 1908 [SBMP]: “Lucero’s body found at sea. Coroner A.M. Ruiz and S. R. McDonald, and assistant to undertaker S. T. Ricketts, will leave here this morning on a power schooner with Captain Vasquez for Santa Cruz Island, to bring to this city the body of Lucero, the crawfish catcher who was drowned off the island on November 7. Lucero and a fellow fisherman left Scorpion camp on Santa Cruz Island on November 7, in a rowboat, to visit another camp. It is believed they were intoxicated, according to the coroner, when they left. The boat was upset and Lucero’s companion declares he never saw him after the boat capsized. Last Sunday a fisherman found the body of Lucero entangled in the kelp off the island, near the spot where the tragedy occurred. He towed it ashore, where it has remained ever since. Word was sent here yesterday and Coroner Ruiz arranged to leave today.”

September 5, 1911 [SBMP]: “Extensive improvements are to be made on Santa Cruz Island. Mr. Avery, a local contractor, left this morning on the island schooner Santa Cruz with a load of lumber for Scorpion, where he will build a bungalow, which the Caire family will use for a summer residence. When this work is completed, he will go to the main ranch, where a spacious dining room will be built.”

September 1, 1911 [SBMP]: “The Ashai Company will this week move its camp from Scorpion to Pelican Harbor, and expects to start on the crawfish September 15th...”

February 25, 1915 [SBMP]: “Scorpion Harbor scene of drowning. Belisario Valencia is swept from boat in heavy sea. Yesterday afternoon Coroner Ruiz received word from Santa Cruz Island to the effect that Belisario Valencia, one of the Caire employees, had been drowned on the afternoon of the preceding day, at Scorpion Harbor on the south side of the island. The message came from Captain Andreas [Giovanni Battista] Olivari of the power schooner Santa Cruz, who had sent a man over in a launch for the purpose of bringing the information to the coroner. It seems that Valencia was assisting in landing a lot of piles that had been taken from Prisoners’ Harbor to Scorpion. The piles were taken from the schooner onto a small boat to a lighter to the landing. There was a high sea running, and while Valencia and a son of Captain Olivari [Pete] were on the lighter, a huge wave swamped the craft and washed the men overboard. Young Olivari managed to swim ashore, but his unfortunate companion was seen no more. Coroner Ruiz sent word back to the island for the men there to keep a watch for the body of the drowned man and send the body to this city when it should be recovered, for inquest and burial. The deceased was about 40 years of age and a widower. Several relatives live in Santa Barbara.”

February 25, 1915 [SBDN]: “A close watch was kept today at Scorpion Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, for the body of Belisario Valencia, one of the Caire ranch employees who was accidentally drowned Monday while transferring wooden pilings from the company’s boat to a lighter. The body sank when the lighter capsized, and efforts to recover it were unavailing. No word had been received down to a late hour today concerning the recovery of Valencia’s remains. The company’s schooner, which brought the news of the drowning late yesterday from the island, returned today, conveying a request from Coroner A.M. Ruiz to ship the remains here as soon as they are found, so that an inquest may be held. It is thought that the body will be washed to shore by the waves. Valencia was 40 years old, and a widower. He has a number of relatives living here. He was employed as a laborer for the Santa Cruz Island Company.”

April 23, 1928 [SBMP]: “Captain Frank Couzens of the tug Williams, has not had his schedule interrupted during the past week of heavy winds in the channel and has kept up with the regular schedule of delivery of rock for the breakwater. During the same time, Captain Ira K. Eaton made a trip from San Pedro to Pelican Bay in the Roncador, 35-foot boat, passing Scorpion Harbor.”

December 7, 2016 [National Parks Traveler]: “Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau has announced the damaged pier at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island in California has been replaced and is open for visitor landings. The pier was closed last December due to damages caused by high surf. It was a flatbed railcar that had been installed as a temporary pier in 2000 and had deteriorated due to wave action and saltwater corrosion. Last Wednesday, the flatbed railcar was removed and replaced with an elevated aluminum gangway. This is a short-term solution as the park expects to construct a new pier in approximately two years. The elevated gangway will be reused as part of the new pier. Scorpion Anchorage is the most visited destination in the park, with more than 65,000 people coming ashore each year to enjoy recreational activities such as hiking, picnicking, camping, kayaking, and swimming.”

August 20, 2018 [National Parks Traveler]: “New Pier Coming To Santa Cruz Island In 2019-20.The National Park Service has settled on plans for a new pier at Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park off California's coast, but construction issues, funding cycles, and avoiding the height of the tourist season mean the installation won't begin before late next year on the multi-million-dollar pier. The pier at the Scorpion Anchorage on East Santa Cruz Island has been in need of replacement for some time. It was closed in December 2015 due to damages caused by high surf. At the time, the "pier" was a flatbed railcar that had been installed as a temporary structure in 2000 and had deteriorated due to wave action and saltwater corrosion. Then, in December 2016 the flatbed railcar was removed and replaced with an elevated aluminum gangway. At the time it was recognized that this was a short-term solution; it is still in use. In May 2017 the park settled on a replacement plan. While formal approval of that was expected last year after the 30-day public comment period had closed, that approval was just announced this past Thursday. The new pier is expected to provide safer, more accessible, efficient, and sustainable access for visitors at Scorpion Anchorage. It also will provide more reliable access during low tide conditions for concessioner and NPS vessels.

“There’s no one real reason that is outstanding for it not being signed (sooner)," Sterling Holdorf, facilities manager for the park, said last week. Some documents that needed to get signed for the project were misplaced when the park's former superintendent retired in 2017, and so some of the requisite signatures were not made as soon as possible, he said.“We kind of had to deal with everything involved from him retiring to where all the other documents were living and where they were in the process," said Holdorf, who was not at the park at the time. That said, the facilities manager said even had the decision document been signed last summer, the project most likely wouldn't have gotten off the design stage and into construction any sooner. “There are a number of factors in play. One of them is we are finalizing the design right now," he said. "There are a couple final changes that are being made based on some test borings that were done. This has to do basically where bedrock is underneath the sea floor. It’s a lot deeper than we thought. Which means the piles will have to be longer and the wall thickness will have to be thicker.”

The new pier will be 300 feet long, the length of a football field, and more than three times the length of the current 90-foot pier. Along most of that length the pier will be 16 feet wide, said Holdorf, though at the very end it will be 30 feet wide. The 30-foot-width is needed because the park uses a crane truck to load and unload cargo from park boats, he said. The construction, estimated to take between six and nine months, is planned for the winter months, when fewer visitors make the trip to Santa Cruz Island from the mainland, the facilities manager said. The Scorpion Anchorage is the most visited destination in the park, with about 65,000 people coming ashore each year to enjoy recreational activities such as hiking, picnicking, camping, kayaking, and swimming, according to park staff. While the design work remains to be completed, the estimated cost of the pier ranges from $5 million to $10 million, an intentionally large range supplied by the Park Service so as not to influence the bidding process. "This is a great day for visitors to Channel Islands National Park, as this significant step in the planning process makes way for a major improvement to critical park infrastructure," said Channel Islands Acting Superintendent Ethan McKinley last week after the design document was signed. “The new pier at Scorpion Anchorage will be the access point for most visitors to the park for years to come."

October 21, 2019 [Noozhawk]: “Santa Cruz Island’s Scorpion Cove Closing Nov. 1 for Months-Long Pier Construction. Scorpion Cove, the most popular Santa Cruz Island destination, will be closed to the public for months while the National Park Service replaces the pier. The closure will affect day trippers and campers starting Nov. 1, and the construction is expected to last six to nine months, according to Channel Islands National Park personnel. Island Packers, the concessionaire whose boats ferry visitors to the islands from Ventura County, is scheduling trips to other Santa Cruz Island destinations during the closure. Prisoners Harbor and Painted Cave are alternatives. There will be Scorpion Cove access between Dec. 21 and Jan. 5, 2020, using the existing pier, said Yvonne Menard, a park spokeswoman. The cove will also be closed to boats during construction, but the nearby Little Scorpion anchorage will be open during the pier closure, so boats can moor there as usual. Onshore Scorpion Canyon amenities of restrooms, campgrounds and visitor center will be closed during construction, she said. “They will have a lot of activity occurring right in the heart of the valley for construction,” she said. “It’s not safe to have visitors in that proximity.” Scorpion Pier, on the northeastern end of Santa Cruz Island, can’t be used during low tides, and requires visitors to climb ladders into and out of the Island Packers ferries. Passengers form a bucket-brigade-style line to offload camping gear by passing items person to person along the pier gangway. Menard said the new pier — which will be longer and wider than the existing structure — will be built to nearly line up with the access road that leads past restrooms and the visitor center. “The existing Scorpion Pier was only intended as a temporary and relatively low cost solution for providing urgent access following the park service’s 1996 acquisition of the east end of the island,” according to the environmental review document for the new pier. The closure is unfortunate, Menard said, “but the improvements will be a valuable asset for many years to come.” Pier construction will have a big impact on Island Packers, since trips to Scorpion make up 85 percent of its business, co-owner Cherryl Connally said. While she is excited for the new pier, she says it will take a lot of work for the company to get through the closure. “They first anticipated it would only take three or four months,” she said. “Now it’s more than that and we’re being patient, you know, but we’re not happy.” Connally plans to bring additional business to Prisoners Harbor, where there will be guided hikes and kayak tours, and schedule a lot of half-day and three-quarter-day wildlife cruises across the Santa Barbara Channel to the islands. Island Packers will also take people to the Painted Cave area in the Nature Conservancy-owned portion of Santa Cruz Island, she said. “It’s western Santa Cruz, way up on the tip, so they’ll get to see the whole north shore of the island,” Connally said. While the closure shouldn’t affect November, December and January business too much — usually a slow period — springtime is a very busy time for Island Packers, she said. “Spring is a very busy time for us,” she said. “It’s been the high peak of our season with the spring breaks so we will have to focus on some unique trips.” Scorpion Cove area is the most visited destination in Channel Islands National Park, according to Menard. A flatbed railcar was installed as a temporary pier in 2000, and the current aluminum gangway was added in December 2016 after storm damage. The gangway is going to be used as part of the new pier, she said.”