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Neary Lagoon

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.

Trail/Pathway Details

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.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Accessible Parking: Yes

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 Tables: Yes

At Chestnut Street and Bay Street/California Street entrances
Floating boardwalk
Floating boardwalk (Bonnie Lewkowicz )

Features icon key

  • hiking
  • particularly good for families
  • picnic
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Dept.
Address: 110 California St., Santa Cruz
Nearest City: Santa Cruz
Phone: (831) 420-5270
Hours: 7:30 am to dusk
Dogs: In restricted areas
Not allowed in refuge; leashed dogs allowed in park outside refuge
Public Transportation: Santa Cruz Metro
Reviewed by Foster Andersen, September 18, 2008
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing