Channel Islands National Park info

We are going to Channel Islands NP for New Year’s - not the best time, but it is what it is. We would love some advice or info from anyone who has kayaked around Scorpion Beach - and are especially interested in hearing from anyone who has camped/kayaked there in December or January. Thanks!

Channel Islands
I haven’t paddled them, so I can’t help you there, but I have done many dives there off boats.

The weather is a mixed bag in January where you can have a perfectly calm day with sun and lake like conditions, or it can be full storm with 45+ winds and breaking waves. The conditions, as is always the case, can change very quickly, so keep an eye on reports.

Water will be in the high 50’s to low 60’s most likely (the ocean warms a bit here in winter, but it’s still not warm). Currents can be fairly strong (dive boats put out long lines along which divers pull themselves back to the boats), so be prepared for that as well.

Wildlife abounds, so if you get a chance to see some of the underwater sights as well, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a very rich aquatic zone with gorgeous kelp forests, abundant fish, marine mammals (seals, dolphins, and whales can be seen at this time of year). Due to the marine mammals, sharks (including great whites and blues) are in the area at all times of year, but there is no real history of attacks there. This could be a function of being far enough off-shore that the number of shark/human encounters are greatly reduced.

The water can be quite clear and visibility can exceed 50 feet on good days and may reach as far as 80 (according to Above water visibility is generally several miles as the weather is, for the most part, quite pleasant. There may be fog (most in morning hours), but it will tend to burn off (no fog underwater, so good times for snorkling). Fog is much less of a problem in winter than summer, so it should not be a real concern.

Good luck. It should be a beautiful trip.


Thanks for the Channel Islands Info
Rick -

Thanks! This really pumped us up! Can’t wait and we’re prayin’ for good weather!


Better Info on Kayaking
Check out the California Kayak Friends website and you will find several trip reports on Santa Cruz Island.

I have not paddled exactly where you are going to be but I have experience in the area. I’m sure others here have paddled near the campground there. My take on ocean temperatures is a bit different, closer to low 50s would be my guess around new years at best, I was in ventura a few weeks ago and it was already 55.

The wave conditions can be small but late december early january is usually when we get our epic swells Even on the protected side of the Island you can be exposed to some big swell conditions. I assume you are going with an outfitter so hopefully they can take you to the most sheltered spots if there is a big swell. Here’s video we took in Ventura in January 2004, this was a good sized swell.–s

Agree with Above is a good resource for you. Some of their trip reports have photos, so you can see the area. It’s beautiful. You didn’t post a profile, so I don’t know your experience level, boat(s), etc., which would be helpful in advising you. If you’re going to paddle very far along the coast and/or are less than a strong experienced paddler, I suggest you head west so you paddle with the wind on your return leg. A NW wind generally comes up in the afternoon and can sometimes blow strongly. If you or your faimily are novices, don’t underestimate the weather/sea there. Tourist types have died by doing so. It is however beautiful paddling. I suggest you paddle early and relax or hike later. The campground is about a 1/4 mi. walk over flat ground from the beach, set in a eucalyptus grove. It’s nice and you will probably have not many other campers, being the off season. Some nice day hikes originate there to awesome views. Don’t leave any food items unsecured. The mice and ravens are very adept thieves, which is why the NPS has installed metal food lockers.

Channel Islands - response
Sea-addict -

Thanks for the info! We have never ocean kayaked…but we have done quite a bit of touring on Lake Superior at Isle Royale National Park. We were going to bring our sea kayaks (and skirts) but an outfitter told us that we should use sit-upons - that our sea kayaks were not the right boat for exploring at Channel Islands - if you feel differently - we’d like to know.

We had been warned and we had planned on kayaking early in the morning - getting off the water around lunch time and then hiking.

Thanks again for your response!

Ade and Tim

I’ve been there a couple of times
I’ve paddled over as well as taken the boat and done a little touring around the caves. I was there in Spring and Fall but over on Anacapa in February. Weather is a risk but often our winters take a bit of a break the first couple weeks of January before coming back hard in February. If you get lucky there will be a mild Santa Ana making it wonderful. Message me if you have more specific questions.

Outfitter does not know your ability
I think the outfitter does not want to have to judge your ability to handle your sink and self rescue etc. Much easier to deal with a group of less experienced kayakers in SOTs. If the swells are mild there are lots of sea caves on Santa Cruz so you may get to do some caving. Probably better to scuff up the outfitters boats.

Thank you for responding - we’re praying for good weather (as always) - and yes, it will be easier with the outfitter’s boat - we weren’t keen on hauling our big boats behind our little RV from Iowa to L.A. during the holidays.

If I was to paddle there, I would bring my touring boat. But as said above, it is likely the outfitter not wanting to judge your skills at self rescues and such. or that they are just taking the easy route themselves, and only use SOTs for their business not that unusual in Southern CA).

If you haven’t read it yet, there is an article on paddling the Channel Islands in Issue #3 of California Kayaker Magazine. Can be read online for free at

adeanast -
Sent you an email.