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Santa Cruz is one of the most popular tourist destinations in California and is part of the Channel Island archipelago and the Channel Islands National Park. Santa Cruz is the largest island in California and features steep cliffs, coves, large sea caves, and much more. 24% of the island is owned by the NPS, while the other 76% is owned by the Nature Conservancy. One of the historical landmarks on Santa Cruz island is the Scorpion Ranch.

Today Scorpion Ranch house is protected and managed by the National Park Service and has been opened as a visitor center. It has become more notable for having a colony of Townsend's big-eared bats. North America has a huge amount of often underappreciated wildlife; the greatest hotspot for North American fauna is in Yellowstone National Park.


Scorpion Ranch - A Santa Cruz Historical Landmark

Livestock ranching on Santa Cruz Island started back as far as the 1850s, but it wasn't until the 1880s that the ranchers created a more self-sufficient operation there. It is believed that the Scorpion Ranch was constructed in 1886 and 1887, while the ranch itself has been operating since 1885.

  • Built: 1886 and 1887
  • Used: For Rancher Hands On The East Of The Island

The two-story Scorpion ranch house was the home of ranch hands that tended the cattle, sheep, and crops on the eastern part of the island. The island offered ranchers a number of benefits - having no predators and the ocean as the best fence. But at the same time, it was difficult to supply just a remote outpost. The cowboys on this island had to learn to be very innovative and were rugged, and self-reliant.

The area finally came to an end in 1997 when the NPS acquired the last interest from the family owning interests on the island.

  • Visitor Center: Opened In 2008

The historic ranch house has been rehabilitated, and today one can learn about the ranching pioneers who ventured over to Santa Cruz Island.

The downstairs is now a visitor's center, while the upstairs is protected after being colonized as a maternity roost by Townsend's big-eared bats.

Related: Love Kayaking? Then Channel Islands National Park Is The Perfect Place For You

Scorpion Ranch's Townsend's Big Eared Bat Maternity Roost

One room at the Scorpion Ranch, which used to be used for bread making, has been colonized by Townsend's big-eared bats. This makes the Scorpion Ranch one of the few known big-eared maternity colonies in the state of California. Another notable colony is in Pinnacles National Park in the Bear Gulch Cave. On the Canal Islands, they only live on Santa Cruz Island.

The National Park Service manages the environmental conditions of the room (like the light, temperature, access, etc.) to make the conditions optimal for this remarkable species of bat. These bats have been in decline, with documented losses in their maternity colonies in California.

  • Season: Spring And Summer

The bats roost during the spring and summer and are famous for their habit of forming maternity roosts for the breeding season. The maternity roosts are also easily disturbed, and so the species is somewhat rare.

  • Range: United States, Canada, Mexico
  • Lifespan: Average 16 Years But Up To 30 Years

As their name suggests, the most notable physical feature of this medium-sized bat is its very long ears. They range throughout the west. They range from north to the southern part of Canada's British Columbia and south to central Mexico. They are as far east as the Great Plains - with isolated populations in central and eastern America.

Related: 10 Beautiful California Islands You Need To Visit

Visiting Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island is part of the Canal Islands National Park. The Scorpion Ranch Visitor Center and Santa Cruz Island can only be visited by park concessionaire boats or private boats. It is highly recommended to do advanced planning when visiting the islands.

  • Access: By Park Concessionaire Boat or Private Boat

There are also mainland visitor centers that one can visit much more easily in Venture and Santa Barbara.

If one is planning to visit Santa Cruz Island, remember that there is no transportation on the islands. All areas can only be accessed by kayak, foot, or provide boat - even bicycles are prohibited.

  • Bicycles: Prohibited
  • Entry Fee: Canal Islands NP Are Free To Enter
  • Scorpion Ranch Visitor Center Hours: Daily From 8.30 am to 5.00 pm

The Scorpion Ranch Visitor Center is open every day from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm, and there are plenty of other notable visitor centers to explore on the Canal Islands.