Ahhh Lake Merritt, the lake of a thousand smells.
I’ve heard a lot of rumors regarding Lake Merritt and it’s origins. So I decided to write this article about the history and facts of Lake Merritt. I hope this article helps spread some proper and informative information for all. Please share with fellow Oaklander’s.
Is Lake Merritt Man Made?
For one, I often hear that Lake Merritt is a man made lake, as if it never were. Truth is it is not even really a lake when you get all technical. It is a natural salt water tidal lagoon connected to the Oakland / Alameda Estuary. So that means the Bay and yes the Pacific Ocean.
You can actually see the tide come in and out under the 12th street bridge. Yes, this “lake” is actually part of the oceans tide. This is why you often see birds all around the bottom of Lake Merritt in the shallow waters by the bridge. They are catching fish coming in and out with the tide.
Lake Merritt is also an outlet for 5 or more fresh water creeks running through Oakland and for 62 storm drains. The creeks include the Park Boulevard Creek, Indian Gultch Trestle Glen Creek, Wildwood Creek, Pleasant Valley Creek, Glen Echo Creek and a few other small ones.
An amazing sunset on Lakeshore Ave near El Embarcadero.
How many miles around Lake Merritt?
I keep hearing the lake is 5 miles around?
It’s only 3.1 miles! Which happens to be 5 kilometers. So maybe that’s why people keep saying 5 miles?
The 3.1 miles is if you take the inner foot path and do the whole lake. But if you cheat and take the sidewalk and skip parts it’s only 2.7 miles.
Either way, it’s a beautiful walk and I do it all the time. Nothing beats the Taco Truck, a beer and the Lake for sunset. Ghetto Gourmet.
How long does it take to walk Lake Merritt?
Well at 3.1 miles long and the average human walking 3 to 4 miles per hour it would take 45 minutes to an hour.
But you should give yourself more time to walk around Lake Merritt because you’re going to want to soak it all in, sit on a bench or two, people watch, lay in the grass, etc.
Lakeshore Ave near East 18th Ave looking towards the Alameda County Court House.
This is the new Lake Merritt bridge you can walk over on 14th Ave.
The Nations First Wildlife Refuge
Another thing no one seems to know is that Lake Merritt is the nations very first declared Wildlife Refuge. Declared by Dr. Samuel Merritt himself when he was mayor of Oakland back in 1869 and it was approved in 1870.
Today the Bird Sanctuary is just the 5 man made bird islands which began construction in 1925. It’s kind of neat that we have the Nations first wildlife refugee right here in Oakland. Cool! As of 1963 it is registered as a national historic landmark.
Actually while doing research for this article I have become slightly confused. Is it the FIRST or just the last standing / oldest? Can anyone help with this? I was always taught it was the first. The gov site says Florida in 1903, so yes we would be first but they don’t even have us listed?
To learn more about Lake Merritt and it’s wildlife you can visit the Nature Center in Lakeside Park near the Bird Sanctuary.