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In the mid-19th century, it was a seaport where boats came to trade hides, tallow, hay, grain, produce, lumber and quicksilver from the Almaden mines. The decline of the port began with the completion of the railroad which you can see to the east of the park. Now, the Alviso Marina County Park is part of the National Wildlife Refuge hosting protected tidal and non-tidal marshes, salt ponds and sloughs where fauna and wildlife flourish. It is a great place to walk and bicycle because you have the Alviso and Coyote sloughs on one side and the salt ponds on the other side and salt marsh along the way. You will find hundreds of species of birds depending on the season and time of day. Sometimes there are tens of birds sunning themselves in the salt ponds. During the spring or fall migratory seasons, you may see brandt, pintails, mallards, or canvasbacks. Other birds that live here include herons, seagulls, avocets, stilts, and the endangered California clapper rail. Besides the birds, other wildlife you may see includes the red fox, endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, and rabbits.
Enter the parking lot through Hope Street and you will pass the park sign. You will pass the restrooms, water fountains and picnic tables on your right before you park. There is typically plenty of parking in the first parking lot. The description in this review covers a clockwise walk around the 9 mile Alviso Slough Trail loop that is a wide dirt trail.
Hope street entrance County park sign
First parking lot Restrooms
There are three interpretive signs in the shore area around the parking lot and three on the Alviso Slough Trail. Alviso Slough Trail is part of the Jaun Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. In the middle of the parking lot, you will see a sand trail, benches and a boardwalk where you can walk out to the salt pond for views. There are interpretative signs describing the wetlands where only hardy, salt-tolerant vegetation survives such as eel, salt & cord grass, sea lettuce, pickle weed, salt bushes, mule fat, tules, cattail, and sage scrub. The boardwalk ends at the Alviso Slough Trail where you can begin the nine mile loop.
Sand trail and benches Boardwalk
View from boardwalk
Boardwalk meets the trail
Salt has been harvested in this area since the Ohlone people and it is now one of the largest industrial solar evaporation complexes in the world. The salt ponds come in many different colors which reflect the types and concentration of algae and bacteria that live in the salt water. There is an interpretative sign explaining more details about the ponds.
Salt-tolerant vegetation Salt pond colors
Alviso Slough Trail Cord grass
Salt pond Mule fat
Watch for the signs where there are closed areas. These are typically found at the junction of sand bars.
Sand bar Bird
Trail Closed area
There are plenty of places to see families of herons by the shore and hundreds of birds in the salt ponds.
Hundreds of birds Trail
Birds in salt pond
On the trails, you will pass a colorful variety of foliage, birds, and as you get closer to where you began your journey, you will find a wooden deck with more interpretative signs and a view of the salt ponds. Follow the trail to the trailhead where you reach the picnic tables, restroom and water fountain and head back to the parking lot.
Birds in flight Turn in the path
Interpretative signs Trailhead