Abandoned Oil Well, Santa Cruz Island

The sign at the two mile marker for the turnoff to the oil well

The sign at the two mile marker for the turnoff to the oil well

ast week, I mentioned what I think is the best hike in Southern California – the Scorpion Landing to Smugglers Cove trail on Santa Cruz Island. Even though I listed about twenty gazillion good reasons in the limited space I had about why that hike was the best hike in Southern California, I have some follow up points about why this hike is the best in Southern California. The first of these bonus tips is this: if you have the time, and the energy, there are some interesting ruins along the trail that are quite accessible, and more than a little mysterious. The largest set of these ruins is the ruined oil well that is just off the Smugglers Road, two miles up the trail from Scorpion Landing.

Directions: If you follow the route I described last week, here, you will find the above pictured sign two miles up the Smugglers Road. From this point, it is .4 miles up the trail to the oil well. The trail is well maintained and well signed, and it provides great views of the Montanon Ridge, which is a more difficult traverse that involves some route finding. You will know when you are at the ruins of the oil well because at about .3 miles, you will start passing various pieces of old drilling equipment that has been left to rust in the island grass.  You will also know you are at the ruins of the oil well at .4 miles as there is a large oil derrick that protrudes approximately fifty feet in the sky next to a rusted out building and pipe network. As it is the only oil well on the island, and the only structure/man-made facility for miles and miles, it is impossible to miss.  From the .3 mile mark to the actual structure, you will have many opportunities to look around at the equipment and fixtures that have been left behind. In terms of distance, this side trip will add a total of .8 miles - .4 miles each way to the hike mentioned here over mostly flat terrain.My recommendation: this is a great side trip if you've got the time when you are hiking the Smugglers Road.

Information About the Well: Either my internet search-fu is weak, and I totally missed the obvious resources that explain who sunk the well, why they sunk the well, how they sunk the well, when they sunk the well, and why they left pretty much everything behind; or the information is not readily accessible. I’m leaning toward the latter, as I actually looked into this a fair amount. There’s also not much – if any information provided by the NPS about this either. There’s obviously oil in the region, based on the presence of the oil rigs in the channel, but I don’t know what – if anything they found on the island (perhaps a strange geomagnetic pocket of time traveling power!). So, if you happen to know any of the answers to the questions above, please don’t hesitate to let me – and my readers know.

Scary Story About the Well: When I was poking around the ruins, I was inside the only building. There was no one around for miles, and it was a very quiet day. While I was checking out the interior of the structure I saw a shadow pass over one of the interior walls as if someone had passed by the doorway. Even though I knew as a matter of fact that no one was outside, I went and looked and determined that there was no one – and nothing moving outside. Is the oil well haunted? Since there’s no information about it, this seems like as good a place as any to start that rumor. THE OIL WELL COULD BE HAUNTED!!! Or it was the shadow of a cloud, bird, island fox, or the rust fumes made me see something. Even if the oil well isn’t haunted, this is a great opportunity to explore, have an adventure, and for the moment, pretend perhaps, that you are on the Lost island, and that the Dharma Initiative was also conducting experiments on Santa Cruz Island.