The Rotary Nature Center

The Rotary Nature Center has been opened to its full hours since March 12, 2019 with our new Naturalist Program Director Joe Moore (since June 2019).

Hours are Tue, Thu, Fri, and Sat 10-4. Closed Mon, Wed, and Sun


The Rotary Nature Center was built in 1953 and has operated as an interpretive unit within OPR&YD that maintains and protects Lake Merritt – the first wildlife refuge in North America as well as Joaquin Miller Park and other open spaces. They handle natural science presentations, environmental education, summer camps for youth, as well as urban wildlife issues.

This little interpretive museum houses educational displays, interpretive exhibits, and a working observation beehive. Outside the museum there are freshwater viewing ponds, five habitat islands, and a geodesic dome originally built for injured birds, and the Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge itself.

A great little history of the center can be found in People Are for the Birds: Adventures with the First Municipal Park Naturalist at Lake Merritt, America’s Oldest Waterfowl Refuge, a book written by the center’s first naturalist, Paul Covel. His and his successors’ work inspired several generations of naturalists and people who went on to Science careers.

Community for Lake Merritt is proud to help continue this tradition supporting the Center and its staff to interpret, maintain, and protect the wonderful estuary that is Lake Merritt.