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Lake Merced

Located in the southwest corner of San Francisco, Lake Merced is the largest freshwater wetland between Pt. Reyes in Marin County and Pescadero Marsh in southern San Mateo County. The 509-acre lake provides critical habitat for more than 200 species of birds and, with its surrounding uplands, nesting habitat for 50 species, including Great Blue Herons, Marsh Wrens, and Double-crested Cormorants. The lake is a hot spot for migrating birds and hosts significant flocks of waterfowl in winter.

Many birds that depend on the lake are listed as threatened, endangered, or species of special concern, or are on our own local watch list. They include Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Common “Saltmarsh” Yellowthroat, and Yellow Warbler.

Conservation Issues

Heavy recreational use and the lack of an adequate management plan threaten to degrade this urban oasis and diminish its value for wildlife. For example, unaddressed on-going erosion can impair the lake’s water quality.

Our Goals

Golden Gate Audubon volunteers have worked for years to ensure that lake levels are not artificially raised during waterbird nesting season, causing nestlings to drown. We also work hard to keep the lake free from pollutants and inappropriate uses that would endanger the bird populations. Golden Gate Audubon is a member of the Lake Merced Task Force, a semi-governmental organization that works with several city agencies to ensure proper management of the lake. Our key goals for Lake Merced include:

  • Develop a master plan for Lake Merced that maintains a balance between preserving wildlife habitat and accommodating recreational uses
  • Ensure that appropriate city agencies implement the master plan
  • Reduce erosion around the lake by creating a plan and set of procedures to reinforce and stabilize the lake’s shoreline

What You Can Do

  • Contact our San Francisco Conservation Committee to find out how you can help participate in reviewing projects and plans that may impact the lake.
  • Help us monitor the lake’s Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Cormorant colonies.