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The Rotary Nature Center is a citywide interpretive center operated by Oakland Parks and Recreation that maintains and protects Lake Merritt, America's first wildlife refuge. The Center handles natural science presentations, environmental education, summer camps for youth, and urban wildlife issues.

In 1953 the Lake Merritt Nature Center was built under the guidance of Paul Covel, the Duck Refuge's legendary naturalist, through funds donated by the Oakland Rotary Club as well as a Boy Scout memorial fund in honor of Oakland Naturalist Brighton C. "Bugs" Cain. BC Cain was a Stanford-trained naturalist who worked for the Oakland Boy Scouts as their Naturalist from 1919 until 1950. Inside the Nature Center are some of BC Cain’s bug collections that were once located in the famed "Bug House" at the Camp Dimond scout camp

The interpretive museum houses educational displays, interpretive exhibits and a working observation beehive (yes, LIVE BEES) and the outdoor destinations include freshwater viewing ponds, five habitat islands, a geodesic dome for injured birds and the Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge. The Nature Center also cares for a variety of live presentation animals that are used in the educational interpretive programs.

Stephanie Benavidez is the supervising naturalist of the Rotary Nature Center, as well as the Lake Merritt Wild Duck Refuge.


This is a great place to visit - you're pretty sure to learn a lot about Lake Merritt and the animals in the area (including birds of Lake Merritt). It's also right next to the main bird area of the sanctuary and near great paths along Lake Merritt.

It's easy to bike or walk there if you're already in the Lakeside Park area. The 12, NL, and 58L buses stop at the corner of Grand and Perkins and it's a short walk down Perkins towards the lake to get to the center. If you're driving, you can enter the park from Grand Ave (turn south onto Bellevue Ave. (which is called Park View Terrace north of Grand)) and park your car in the park, but this will cost you money. You can also park on Perkins St. - there's usually parking on the last block there.

Also, there's a sweet cafe right near the center - Coffee With a Beat.


600 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610


Sunday - Thursday 9 am - 5 pm
Friday & Saturday 9 am - 3 pm


(510) 238-3739


Rotary Nature Center official website

photo by rudisillart CC BY-NC-SA 2.0CC SA-BY Our OaklandCC SA-BY Our OaklandCC SA-BY Our Oakland(by mk30)