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Santa Cruz Geology

Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands, and the most diverse geologically. Its highest peak is Picacho Diablo at 2,434 feet. The island has a large central valley surrounded by tall mountains that was formed by a major earthquake fault ( and is the only Channel Island with a prominent central fault system ). Canyons cut from the mountains to the shoreline around the island on all sides, with a natural pass from Prisonerís Harbor into the Main Ranch and Central Valley.

The islandís rock formations include all eras known to the Channel Islands, from the oldest metamorphic rock, to igneous volcanic rock formations, to more recent sedimentary formations - with fossils found in the volcanic and sandstone formations.

One of the most interesting geological features of Santa Cruz Island is the Painted Cave. Not an Native American rock art site, this is a majestic sea cave that reaches far back into the island, allowing a large yacht to pass inside. It is purportedly one of the largest sea caves in the world, according to captain Frank Benko, and is definitely the largest sea cave in the western United States. The ceiling height reaches to 160 feet, and at its widest it is 100 feet across. The name Painted Cave comes from the multi colored algae and lichen that grow in the caveís volcanic rock walls and ceilings.

Miners and geologist have hunted for oil, gold and silver on the island to no avail. The only mining that has been successfully completed on the island was the quarrying that took place to build the breakwater at Santa Barbaraís harbor in 1927 until the operation closed in 1930.