Neary Lagoon

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Particularly good for families
  • Hiking
  • Picnic


  • Playground
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Particularly good for families
  • Hiking


110 California St., Santa Cruz, CA, 95060
Monterey/Santa Cruz
Info: (831) 420-5270
7:30 am to dusk
On leash
Not allowed in refuge; leashed dogs allowed in park outside refuge
Last Reviewed:
September 2008
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This peaceful freshwater marsh lies within a 44-acre park tucked between a wastewater treatment plant and a residential neighborhood in the city of Santa Cruz. The 14-acre marsh includes a lagoon, which you can cross on a floating boardwalk, while enjoying close-up views of mallard and wood ducks, grebes, coots, and other birds. The boardwalk is part of a loop trail, used by both walkers and cyclists traveling between downtown and the west side of town. Picnic tables, a small amphitheater, and a basketball court are at the Chestnut Street entrance; a narrow grassy area, an accessible playground, and tennis courts are at the  California Street entrance.

Twice a year, goats and sheep are brought in to eat the invasive grasses, a delightful sight that I was fortunate to catch on my visit in mid-September.

Trails and Pathways

Trailhead Location:
The most accessible route begins at the Chestnut Street entrance. The California Street entrance has a long ramp.
Trail Length:
Under one mile total
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Typical Terrain:
Trail Overview:

A 50-foot hardened path leads to a shady spot with a map and interpretive panels. The loop trail begins here. Take the boardwalk to the right, then go left at the junction to quickly reach a secluded section where the floating boardwalk passes through a marsh with tules and cattails. On my visit, rustling willows and the flapping of many dragonfly wings combined for an interesting soundscape. If you don't turn at the junction, you will pass a native meadow with purple needle grass, meadow barley, and poppies (none were visible in late September). The trail ends in about 50 feet, at Blackburn Street.

Alternatively, at the start of the loop trail you can follow the hardened path to the left, past a viewing deck—look between the 48"-high railings for turtles—the water treatment plant, and a narrow grassy area before you come to the floating boardwalk.

Interpretive signs along the trail tell about creatures that inhabit the marsh and lagoon, local flora, and the native Ohlone people. This marsh is a remnant of a wetland that once extended over 75 acres.

Accessibility Notes: Intermittent boardwalk and hardened earth. The boardwalk is bumpy in places, and where it floats some people may experience motion sickness.


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

At foot of Chestnut Street and near corner of Bay and California Streets

Accessible Restroom:
Yes – At parking lot at Bay and California Streets

Accessible Picnic Table:
Yes – firm & stable path to tables, firm & stable surface, 27" or greater knee clearance; At Chestnut Street and Bay Street/California Street entrances

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