Neary Lagoon 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, California. 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.
see access criteria for definitions
- Trailhead: The most accessible route begins at the Chestnut Street entrance. The California Street entrance has a long ramp.
- Length: Under one mile total
- Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
- Typical Grade: Gentle
- Terrain: Firm
Intermittent boardwalk and hardened earth. The boardwalk is bumpy in places, and where it floats some people may experience motion sickness.
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.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
- Accessible Parking: Yes
At the foot of Chestnut Street and near the corner of Bay and California Streets
- Accessible Restroom: Yes
At the parking lot at Bay and California Streets
- Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes
At Chestnut Street and Bay Street/California Street entrances
- Hours: 7:30 am to dusk
- Map: See here.
- Fees: None
- Dogs: In restricted areas and not allowed in the refuge; leashed dogs allowed in the park outside the refuge
- Public Transportation: Santa Cruz Metro