Lake Merritt is a large tidal lagoon in central Oakland , California, just east of downtown. It is surrounded by parkland and the neighborhoods of the city. It is historically significant as the first official wildlife refuge in the United States, designated in 1870, and has been listed as a National Historic Landmark since 1963, and as a National Historic Places Register since 1966.
The lake features grassy shores; several artificial islands intended as bird sanctuaries; an interpretive center called the Rotary Nature Center at Lakeside Park; a boating center where sailboats, canoes and rowing boats can be rented and classes are held; and a fairy tale theme amusement park called the Children's Fairyland.
The "necklace of lights" surrounds Merritt Lake. With 126 lampposts and 3,400 "pearly bulbs," the necklace was first lit in 1925. In 1941, the lights were removed in order to comply with World War II blackout conditions. After a decade-long campaign by the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, the lights were illuminated again in 1987. The city replaces white bulbs with multicolored bulbs during Oakland 's annual gay pride celebration.
The lake has a healthy bird population all year round. It sees seasonal fluctuations in the type of birds that call the lake home. Around the year, the lake is home to many of Canada's geese and moderate numbers of black crowned night herons, large egrets, snowy egrets, cormorants, American coots, and western gulls. There are also small mallard duck and pelican (American and brown) populations.
From November to March, the lake is home to a very large population of larger scaups and smaller scaups, which spend most of their time floating on the water. Tuffed duck, a rare bird from Eurasia, has also been recorded annually. Minor numbers of canvas, redhead, common and Barrow 's golden eyes, buffalo and other migratory diving ducks are also present during the cold season.
From June to the end of September, the Canada Lake Goose population increased significantly; Canada Geese became almost ubiquitous around the perimeter of the lake. There is also a moderate pelican population in late summer and early fall, and Caspian terns can be seen on the lake.
Although native trees such as shoreline live oak and California buckeye are present, most of the park bordering Lake Merritt has been landscaped with plants from around the world. As early as 1910, City Park Commissioners recognized Oakland as a city of immigrants and felt that "visitors to the park would like to see plants from their native lands." This theme of diversity in the park's landscape has continued with landscape renovations. The iconic plant of the lake is the New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum sp.), which grows along the water's edge with its picturesque gnarled branches.
This amazing landmark is located near the following amazing must-see sites in Oakland, California:
- Angel Island
- Tilden Regional Park
- Oakland Zoo
- Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
- Children's Fairyland
- The University of California Botanical Garden
- Chabot Space & Science Center
- USS Hornet - Sea, Air and Space Museum
All of these wonderful points of interest are located just a short distance from our location, conveniently located just down the freeway at 1261 Locust St, Walnut Creek! Stop by for a visit anytime!