Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park reopened this weekend

Mercer 12544

Courtesy of www.nps.gov.

Anacapa Island's 'prehistoric-looking' Coreopsis flowers.

Just in time for some of nature’s most splendid displays, one of the islands at Channel Islands National Park reopened to visitors this weekend after some needed repairs.

Parks officials closed Anacapa Island to visitors last summer for safety reasons. The access stairway from the landing cove had deteriorated.

Yvonne Menard with Channel Islands National Park says that after some obstacles, crews finally installed the replacement stairs last week. That’s good news for the boatloads of tourists who go there for a bird’s-eye view of the annual gray whale migration to Mexico, which begins in mid-December.

The other big draw is a few weeks away when the island’s beautiful giant Coreopsis wildflowers bloom. Menard says many people describe the odd flowers as prehistoric looking.

"They have a real wide trunk and then they crest out with fern-like leaves, fleshy green leaves," says Menard, "and then they have cascades of bouquets of yellow sunflowers throughout the top crown of the plant and they literally spread across the entire marine terrace on the island, so sometimes you can actually see the golden color as you approach the island because it’s so brilliant."

The volcanic islands are home to about 145 different plants and animals that exist nowhere else. Anacapa has been a national monument since 1938. The other Channel Islands were designated as a national park in 1980.

About 15,000 people visit Anacapa every year, according to the National Park Service. There is no charge to visit the Channel Islands National Park.

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