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The history of Lake Merritt

So you think you know Lake Merritt?

on February 9, 2011

Oakland’s Lake Merritt now serves as a sanctuary for ducks, the backdrop for memorable family photos, and an oasis for couples scavenging for the perfect picnic spot. But did you know that 143 years ago, the lake was nothing more than a marshland serving as a sewage system? Before former mayor Samuel Merritt built the 12th Street dam, the lake was more of a nuisance than a crown jewel.

This interactive tests your knowledge on the history of Lake Merritt—from the purpose of the saltwater pump (that’s no longer in use) to the wildlife found at the lake. See if you’re an Oaklander who knows the roots of one of the city’s most prized landmarks.

[This multimedia report is no longer available.]


  1. stu on February 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    There was a day when it must have been nice to spend a day in the area. These days it’s just a nice backdrop for drug selling.

  2. annalee allen on February 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    interesting historic photos, thanks for sharing. however, I did see one mistake. the lake pump house, later municipal boathouse, is no longer used as offices for Parks & Recreation Department staff. Those workers were transferred to Ogawa Plaza, and the building was renovated to become the Lake Chalet Restaurant (using Measure DD funds).
    Annalee Allen

    • Shirley Lau on February 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Annalee,

      Thanks for catching that! I apologize for the error and the change has been made.

  3. Mayor of Maxwell Park on February 13, 2018 at 12:12 am

    Everything can change on a New Year’s Day. The day has come back around that it is once more nice to spend a day in the area.

  4. […] So you think you know Lake Merritt? – Oakland North, February 2011 […]

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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