About the Park
Alviso, Ca – Santa Clara County Park
Science Spotlight: Leopard Sharks at Alviso
When I first learned that there were actual sharks around Alviso, I was in total shock. To me, the idea of the perfect habitat for sharks had always been the open ocean. Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that the area is home to leopard sharks.
Leopard sharks are the most common sharks in the San Francisco Bay estuary, with a range that extends from Oregon to Mexico. They can grow to lengths of up to 7 feet, and feed on invertebrates and fish. To feed, they make a daily migration to shallow areas during high tides.
The San Francisco Bay Area lost much of the tidal marsh and shallow areas utilized by the leopard sharks to development for harvesting salt. As these tidal marshes are restored, researchers are finding that the leopard sharks are returning.
Visiting Alviso truly feels like a blast into the past: on your way to the park, you pass by an old cannery site, the warehouses, and a Victorian-style home. The area that is now Alviso Marina County Park used to be receive drainage rich in mercury from the New Almaden Mining District. The site also used to be a heavily-trafficked port area supplying San Jose and a launching point for steamboat passage to San Francisco. When these operations shut down, the area was transformed into salt ponds for salt harvest, operated by the Cargill Salt Company.
The area is now rich with wildlife, providing a feeding and nesting area for many species of birds. Alviso Marina County Park has become a part of the nearby Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Today, the area is part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project (SBSPRP), one of the largest tidal marsh restoration projects on the west coast. Restoration offers new habitat for California wildlife and offers visitors the chance to see nature reclaiming a formerly industry-dominated area.
For more detailed information on the history of Alviso Marina County Park, check out this article by the Mercury News.
Visit the Park
Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are now allowed on trails or walkways. For more detailed information on where dogs are and aren’t allowed, check out the park map.
Alviso Marina County Park serves as the entrance to the greater Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. We encourage you to explore that area as well, time permitting.
Here are some helpful resources to plan your visit:
- General Information
- Park Map
- Mercury News Article – “Wanderlust: Biking the salt ponds of Alviso”
- Information on Leopard Sharks / South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project