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Channel Islands National Park  


Park History

Ventura Harbor

Santa Barbara Channel


Anacapa Landing

Anacapa Coast

Anacapa Surface

Anacapa Trails


Anacapa Buildings

Inspiration Point

Arch Rock

Middle Anacapa

West Anacapa

Santa Cruz Island

Prisoner's Harbor

Scorpion Anchorage

Santa Cruz Views

Santa Cruz Trails

Cavern Point

Scorpion Ranch





Scorpion Ranch

One of the major features of eastern Santa Cruz Island is the Scorpion Ranch complex. The complex includes a ranch house, bunkhouse, storage shed, and several other buildings. Below, the ranch is viewed from the trail leading inland from the Scorpion Ranch wharf.

During the ranching years, a number of ranches were located in various places around the island. The main ranch was located in the central valley. The easternmost ranch was Scorpion Ranch, which was a major out ranch and had an important role in providing food for the rest of the island. The most recent owners of Scorpion Ranch, before the acquisition of the east end of the island by the National Park Service in 1977, were the Gherini family.

Some old pieces of farming and construction equipment sit in the farm complex area. This grader and some other equipment sit in the valley below the ranch complex.

The Scorpion and Smugglers ranches were in operation in 1855. The picture below shows the side of the bunkhouse. This wooden building housed ranch hands who tended sheep, the major activity at the ranch, but also raised cattle, worked crops in the fields, including vineyards. The bunkhouse was built in the summer of 1918.

The ranch house can be seen in the center of the photograph below. The two story building was built in 1887. It is constructed of rubble masonry, using a lime and cement mortar to hold together island rock. Although it is sometimes referred to as an adobe building, only interior walls are constructed of adobe blocks. The ranch house received a seismic retrofit and rehabilitation.

Facilities at the ranch also included a water system, originally constructed in the 1880's. This involved hand dug wells and a windmill (pictured below), a water tank, covered reservoir, and concrete watering troughs. Windmills were erected over wells to pump water into water tanks or reservoirs.

The Cavern Point Trail provides an outstanding view of the central ranch buildings, as can be seen below. In this photograph the bunkhouse is seen in the center. The Smuggler's Road can be seen across the valley as it climbs Scorpion Bluffs.

On December 5, 1997, 12 inches of rain fell on this part of the island and a flood overwhelmed the floor of the valley. Water crested at 4 feet above the valley floor and devastated the ranch area. The campground was destroyed, and damage was done to the trails as well. The blacksmith shop and the barn were swept away, and the bunkhouse was moved 30 feet off of its foundation. It was later resited and restored by the National Park Service. In looking at the photograph of the valley below, it is incredible to think that during flood conditions Scorpion Creek can extend from one valley wall to the other.

Near the buildings in the ranch area there are some caves which were used by the people who lived there for storage of milk, dairy products, potatoes, and even dynamite. One such cave is shown below. Today these caves may also serve as roosting places for Townsend's big-eared bats.

The Gherini family, which owned the ranch, drew up plans for a resort in the ranch area in the early 1960's. The resort would have included dams, a golf course, airstrip, equestrian trails, hunting lodge, and residences. This plan created considerable controversy among those who preferred to see the area become part of a national park. The plans never came to fruition before the land was sold to the National Park Service. However, beginning in 1984 activities of a hunt and recreation club, which included the hunting of feral animals, did go forward.

The service road below runs from Scorpion Ranch up toward Cavern Point. The white exposed soil, a bright, walk chalky rock--which is seen on the eastern section of the island is diatomaceous earth. This soil is derived from single cell marine plants called diatoms.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

  • Commercial use of the images contained in this document without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

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