Alviso Marina County Park is the gateway to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. You can picnic and launch your small boat in this 20-acre park along Alviso Slough, at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, but the big draw is the many miles of levee trails that wrap around adjacent salt ponds. It’s an ideal place for spotting migratory birds and numerous resident birds, including northern harrier hawks, killdeer, song sparrows, and great egrets. You can easily spend all day here if you explore trails in the adjacent Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge.
The town of Alviso was once envisioned as the bustling boating and shipping port of San Jose, but that prospect was diminished by a series of events, including the completion of the railroad, the relocation of the state capital from San Jose to Sacramento, and winter flooding and muddy conditions. Sparsely populated today, the town is listed in the Santa Clara County National Register of Historic Places.
From the parking lot I followed the concrete ramp down to an elevated wooden boardwalk that juts out into the marsh; traveling along it, I felt like a waterbird navigating through the tall, dry marsh plants. Back on the trail, I turned right and in a few hundred feet crossed the wetlands on a longer boardwalk. Both boardwalks have a wooden structure that looks like a doorway beckoning you to enter the wetlands (they can be locked and are used to prevent after-hours entry to the trails).
After crossing the boardwalk, I turned left to begin the loop trail that skirts the slough and surrounding salt ponds. The rustle of grasses and the sweet sound of song sparrows filled the air, interrupted only by occasional jet noise from San Jose Airport. Other resident birds were plentiful, including killdeer, western gull, and northern harrier. Interpretive panels about the wetlands, birds, and Alviso's history are scattered throughout. It was a hot, windless day, and occasionally a bad smell wafted through the air, but it was countered by the abundant fragrant fennel lining the trail.
There is no shade along the trail, and I turned back after less than a mile. Instead of returning via the long boardwalk, I passed it and continued on the loop trail to the next junction, where I turned right and then stopped at an observation deck. This route back to the parking lot has a gentle incline before you reach the picnic area.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
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