In the summer of 2011, a group of friends and families met for a once in a lifetime trip to Santa Rosa Island in the Northern Channel Islands off the Santa Barbara coast. This was more than a seasonal vacation or an annual get together, this trip was witness to a multigenerational change in the history of a nearby, but rarely visited place. Over the island’s history, only four to five different entities had claims to the land and made a living from Santa Rosa’s resources. Now ownership was about to change again, and another way of life was ending. In December 2011, Santa Rosa Island would convert from a 110-year, generational-owned, private enterprise to 100% public lands under the United States Park Service.
This was the end of an era. An era that had slowly been winding down to an imminent close. For those that participated in the trip, it was not lost how special an opportunity this was to experience Santa Rosa Island in a way that not many people had been lucky enough to experience. This was an experience that would soon be impossible to replicate as a National Park. Five days living in the historic Vail & Vickers Ranch House, travelling by ranch truck to the four corners of the island to explore its geology, the rugged terrain, the natural beauty, and its recent ranching history soon to be frozen in time.
This talk draws from this 2011 trip and the 1998 CGS field trip associated with that year’s AAPG Pacific Section Convention hosted by CGS in April 1998. As well as, the 1998 unveiling of the new Thomas Dibblee Jr. Geologic Map of Santa Rosa Island, prepared by Tom Dibblee, John Woolley, and Helmut Ehrenspeck (Map #DF-68). Also related to these events, the collection of papers and guides published by the AAPG Pacific Section titled Contributions to the Geology and the Northern Channel Islands, Southern California (MP-45), edited by Peter Weigand (CSUN).
This talk is billed as a travelogue due to its attempt to be a showcase of Santa Rosa Island that touches on its geologic history and its human history, including its unique contributions to paleontology and anthropology. The information presented draws from many published works of studies to uncover the island’s past, often raising new questions that are yet to be answered. This is not an in-depth presentation of a specific geologic aspect of the island, but an overview of one of the Channel Islands and the many gifts it has to offer to science and the people the island experience affects. People who go to Santa Rosa come back touched by what a special place the island is and with a desire to explore and share that knowledge.
Phil Kinney P.G. is a Principal Geologist with Apex Companies LLC in Thousand Oaks working in the environmental consulting and compliance business. Early in his career he logged wells for oil and gas exploration throughout North America, California and on Santa Barbara Channel platforms - looking out toward the islands. Phil has a B.S. in Geology from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. After graduation, he came to California sight unseen to explore the western United States and has not yet finalized any plans to return east or apply to grad school. Phil started attending CGS meetings in the 1980’s and later served as Treasurer and President. Through his friendships with John Woolley, Will Woolley and the extended Woolley/Vail family and friends he heard many stories of Santa Rosa Island and was lucky enough to visit the island twice. Phil helped CGS put-on the John J. Woolley Memorial Golf Tournament, later “The Woolley”, for almost 20 years to raise money for annual CGS scholarships and the John J. Woolley Scholarship Award, which exist to this day. Although Phil is admittedly a poor and casual golfer, he is one of only a handful of people who have golfed on Santa Rosa Island.