Few comparisons exist between vertical accretion (VA) and carbon accumulation rates (CARs) in restored versus historic (i.e. reference) marshes. Here, we compare these processes in a formerly diked, sparsely vegetated, restored salt marsh (Six Gill Slough, SG), whose surface is subsided relative to the tidal frame, to an adjacent, relatively pristine, historic salt marsh (Animal Slough, AS). Six sediment cores were collected at both AS and SG approximately 6 years after restoration. Cores were analyzed for bulk density (BD), % loss of ignition, % organic carbon, and 210Pb. We found that sharp changes in BD in surface layers of SG cores were highly reliable markers for the onset of restoration. The mean VA since restoration at SG (0.79 [SD = 0.29] cm/year) was approximately twice that of AS (0.41 [SD = 0.16] cm/year). In comparison, the VA at AS over 50 years was 0.30 (SD = 0.09) cm/year. VA consisted almost entirely of inorganic sediment at SG whereas at AS it was approximately 55%. Mean CARs at SG were somewhat greater than at AS, but the difference was not significant due to high variability (SG: 81–210 g C m−2 year−1; AS: 115–168 g C m−2 year−1). The mean CAR at AS over the past 50 years was 118 (SD = 23) g C m−2 year−1. This study demonstrates that a sparsely vegetated, restored salt marsh can quickly begin to accumulate carbon and that historic and restored marshes can have similar CARs despite highly divergent formation processes.