We investigated the assumption that populations of epibenthic macroinvertebrates readily establish in created coastal wetlands by quantifying the spatial and temporal patterns of Cerithidea californica (California horn snail) density in a newly created wetland and an adjacent natural area in Mugu Lagoon, southern California, United States, for 3.5 years. The natural and created sites differed in vascular plant cover and sediment grain size, organic content, salinity, and moisture content. Densities of C. californica in the created site changed little during the study period, and were often lower than those in the natural site. The influences of habitat suitability and dispersal limitation on C. californica colonization of the created site varied among snail age classes. Sediment moisture and organic content explained some of the variability in subadult (47%) and adult (55%) density and relative abundance, but none of the variability in juvenile abundance. Adult snail density was also strongly influenced by distance from the natural/created site transition zone. Juvenile and subadult snail densities were not related to distance from the natural site, possibly due to greater dispersal ability. Between-site differences in C. californica densities and size structure suggested that adult snails were affected by both habitat characteristics and dispersal ability, subadults were influenced to a lesser degree by habitat characteristics, and juveniles were not related to either factor. Accordingly, the influence of habitat characteristics and dispersal ability on created site colonization may change with snail age. Successful restoration of benthic invertebrate communities requires consideration of both habitat characteristics and dispersal ability of the target species, even in created sites in close proximity to natural areas.