Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Visitor center
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking


  • Visitor center
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking


visit link
569 S G St., Arcata, CA 95521
North Coast
Info: (707) 826-2359
Trails: 4 am until one hour after sunset
Visitor center: Mon., 1-5 pm; Tues.-Sun., 9 am-5 pm
Not allowed, service animals OK
Last Visited:
November 2008
This 307-acre marsh at the edge of Humboldt Bay is an early and much-admired example of environmental restoration by design for both human and wildlife uses. It is a wildlife sanctuary, a haven for more than 250 species of birds, and also a part of the City of Arcata wastewater treatment system. It includes saltwater bay, lake, pond, fresh and saltwater marshes, and mudflats. You'll likely see dozens of black-crowned night herons and ducks, as well as godwits, egrets, great blue herons, and raptors. Nearly five miles of looping trails connect a cluster of marshy ponds. In addition to the accessible half-mile-long Butcher’s Slough trail, four miles of almost-level, well-maintained trails run atop levees around the marsh. The best times to visit are dawn and near sunset, when the most birds are present. You walk on a levee trail, looking to the open waters of Humboldt Bay on one side and the still waters of ponds on the other, and listening to the sounds of many birds. Formerly the site of two lumber mills, then a landfill featuring a pile of junk known locally as “Mt. Trashmore,” the Arcata Marsh is a great place to visit because it demonstrates the resilience of nature, with some careful help from human friends. Stop at the visitor center to learn more about the area’s history, the wastewater treatment process, and the wildlife.

The interpretive center has interactive displays about the marsh's history, biology, and wastewater treatment, and rotating art exhibits. You can look out over the marsh through large windows and from the pleasant, accessible deck. Pick up a pamphlet for the accessible Butcher's Slough self-guided trail here. 

Trails and Pathways

Butcher's Slough Self-Guided Trail
Time to Complete:
30 minutes
Trailhead Location:
Visitor center/parking area
Trail Length:
Under one mile total
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Typical Terrain:
Trail Overview: This levee trail skirts Log Pond just north of the visitor center. Numbered signposts keyed to a pamphlet discuss the sanctuary's history, restoration, natural features, and wildlife. Though an active industrial area is nearby, shrubbery and medium-size trees make this spot feel remote. Across the water, ducks dabble in the shallows and willows are crowded with perching black-crowned night herons. 
More Info: This trail is OK in wet weather but other trails in the preserve may get muddy.

Accessibility Features

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking:
Yes – designated accessible parking, firm, level or slope no greater than 2%

Accessible Restroom:
Yes – Inside visitor center

Accessible Picnic Table:
Yes – firm & stable path to tables, firm & stable surface, 27" or greater knee clearance; Located along Butcher's Slough trail and near the parking lot. Some are on grass and none are modified for access, but they were otherwise usable in a motorized wheelchair.

Accessible Visitor Center:

Good to Know:
A maze of almost-level, well-maintained trails, totaling four more miles, traverse the marsh levees. These are worth trying, but where they cross old railroad tracks there are 3-to-4-inch steps over the ties or rails. They were not a deterrent in my motorized wheelchair.The shrubbery and trees around Log Pond are pleasant and provide wildlife habitat, though they  may block your view across the water. Other trails in the sanctuary have unobstructed views.
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