Arlington Canyon, in the northwest part of Santa Rosa Island, Channel Islands National Park, California, has been the setting for important scientific discoveries over the past half century, including the oldest human remains in North America, several vertebrate fossil sites, and purported evidence of a catastrophic extinction event at the end of the Pleistocene. The canyon is filled with alluvial sediments that date to between 16.4 and 1.1 ka (thousands of calibrated years before present), representing accumulation that occurred primarily in response to rising sea levels during the late Pleistocene and Holocene. The deposits are laterally discontinuous, exhibit a high degree of sedimentary complexity, and contain evidence of past climates and environments, including fossil bones, burned plant macrofossils, and invertebrate microfossils. Here, we show that it is critical to view the observations, data, and conclusions of scientific studies conducted in the canyon within this larger context so that localized facets of the spatially and temporally extensive alluvial deposits are not misinterpreted or misrepresented. By improving the baseline understanding of processes and drivers of sediment accumulation in Arlington Canyon, we hope to offer a solid foundation and better underpinning for future archeological, paleontological, and geochemical studies here and throughout the northern Channel Islands.