Wetlands and Trails


Wander the Wetlands of Watsonville

The City of Watsonville’s nature trails provide easy public access to this 800 acre freshwater wetland. More than seven miles of paved trails and 29 trail entrances in Watsonville neighborhoods offer new opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of our special wetlands for recreation and relaxation.

Trail Use

City wetland trails are free to use and open every day in every season. Joggers, hikers, cyclists and birders are welcome to access any of the trails.  Several trails are wheelchair accessible; please see trail maps for appropriate entrances.

Trail Maps

You can pick up a trail map on the outside of the City’s Nature Center anytime, located at 30 Harkins Slough Road, in the back of Ramsay Park. Trail Maps are also available at City Hall and Libraries, or you can download it at the following link:

Wetlands of Watsonville Trail Map

Dog Owners

Dogs are permitted on leash only.  To wildlife in the wetlands,  off-leash dogs are often perceived as predators, causing unintentional wildlife disturbance and habitat damage.  Dog owners are required to pick up their pet’s waste. Please help protect our wildlife and water quality by utilizing a pet waste bag and disposing of it in the trash.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit the Wetlands of Watsonville

  1. Great spot for birding with over 220 species of birds.
  2. One of the LARGEST remaining freshwater wetlands in the Central Coast of California.
  3. Over seven miles of walking, biking, and jogging trails for the whole family with 29 easily accessible trail entrances.
  4. Diverse wildlife to discover, including muskrats, bobcats and tree frogs.
  5. Free Guided Nature Walks offered every Sunday through the City Nature Center located in the back of Ramsay Park at 30 Harkins Slough Rd.

Wetlands of Watsonville trail map brochures available at the City Nature Center, City Hall and the Watsonville Library. You can download the trail map below.

Wetlands of  Watsonville Trail Map

Birding the Wetlands of Watsonville

Come experience the incredible bird life that the Wetlands of Watsonville have to offer.  Located along the globally important Pacific Flyway, the Wetlands of Watsonville provide a resting stop for birds on their migratory journey. The wetland system of sloughs and their uplands offer breeding and year-round habitat for over 220 species of shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors and song birds. Birds like the Cinnamon Teal and the Barn Swallow travel thousands of miles from Mexico and Central and South America to nest here.

Exposed mudflats in fall provide some of the best shorebird habitat in Santa Cruz County. Yellowlegs, American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts are among some of the birds taking advantage of the rich food that the mudflats provide. You can also spot a variety of egrets and herons cruising the shallow water. In winter, the sloughs support a variety of ducks and grebes and other waterfowl, such as Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads and Northern Shovelers. Ruddy Ducks and White Pelicans are a couple of birds present all year. Spring songbirds include Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warblers and Bullock’s Orioles.

Download your Wetlands of Watsonville Bird Checklist.
Monterey Bay Birding Festival 


The Wetlands of Watsonville are home to 23 species whose survival is in danger. The Red-legged Frog, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, and Golden Eagle are just a few of the animals that depend on our wetlands and the adjacent grassland habitat. Begin your exploration at the City of Watsonville Nature Center. Learn about wetlands plants, animals and local cultural history.


Wetlands Restoration

The Wetlands of Watsonville are a system of six freshwater sloughs that provide a home to 23 species listed as endangered or threatened and over 220 bird species. Unfortunately, 90% of the wetlands in California have been destroyed or degraded. The City of Watsonville and Watsonville Wetlands Watch are working to preserve and enhance 800 acres of wetlands, one of the largest remaining freshwater marshes on the central coast of California.  Together our goal is to bring our wetlands back to life through invasive species removal, native plant seed collection, garbage removal, education and planting.

To learn about the City of Watsonville’s Restoration Plan, please read the Watsonville Sloughs Watershed Resource Conservation and Enhancement Plan.

To learn about the City’s efforts to control invasive species and restore/revegetate freshwater wetland native habitat along the 7 miles of City trails managed under the Department of Public Works and Utilities, please read the Vegetation Management and Maintenance Plan.

The Watsonville Wetlands Watch is a non-profit organization committed to restoring our critical wetlands in the Pajaro Valley.

Award Winning Trails

In May of 2006, the City of Watsonville received an award from the California Association of Trails for the development of community trails highlighting wetland protection. The trails also received recognition from the California Transportation Foundation, winning the 17th annual 2006 TRANNY award for Pedestrian Bicycle Project of the Year.

Learn While You Walk

Many interpretive trail signs have been installed along the Wetlands of Watsonville. These trail signs teach about the natural and cultural history of our wetlands and address local conservation issues.

Recommended Trail Walks & Entrances

Watsonville Slough Trail
Trail Head: Park at the City of Watsonville Nature Center – 30 Harkins Slough Road, Watsonville, CA.(831)768-1622. Trail map available outside Nature Center.  Trail entrance behind center. Follow trail to the right, under the bridge. 
Approximate walk: 0.5 miles to Ohlone Parkway and back.
Ohlone Trail
Trail Head: Park in the back of the West Marine parking lot by trail head – 500 Westridge Drive, Watsonville, CA.
Approximate walk: 1.5 miles 
Upper Struve Slough Trail
Trail Head: Park in Body Zone parking lot (behind Body Zone) by trail head – 1810 Main Street, Watsonville, CA. 
Approximate walk: 1.5 miles

City of Watsonville  trail map brochures available at the Nature Center, City Hall and the Watsonville Library to name a few locations. You can also download the trail map below. 

Wetlands of Watsonville Trail Map


City of Watsonville Nature Center – 30 Harkins Slough Road – Watsonville, CA 95076  Phone: (831) 768-1622              Fax: (831) 768-1622