Outdoor Education Center

Welcome to the Yale Outdoor Education Center (OEC)

OEC General Information

What is the OEC?

Summer 2023 Season begins on Friday, June 16th

 Located on 1,500 wooded acres, the Yale Outdoor Education Center (OEC) is nestled on the south shore of a pristine mile-long lake. There are cabins and campsites to rent, plenty of spots to picnic, a new hiking trail, and a clean lake in which to rowboat, kayak, paddleboard, fish or swim. The OEC is located in East Lyme, Connecticut, just northwest of the quaint, seaside town of Niantic and only 42 miles from New Haven. The OEC is available to all members of the Yale community via membership, day-use fee or rental. Nine rustic lakeside cabins and eight secluded campsites are available for summer rental. Campsites include a grill and picnic table; cabins have a picnic table, grill, and small deck. 

A large, H-shaped aluminum dock provides ideal swimming conditions in the lake. Nearby, a wooden dock houses 6 rowboats, and is also available for fishing. Our extended beach offers 8 single- and two-person kayaks and 12 standup-paddleboards. All paddlecraft may be used (only) during supervised waterfront hours. (See hours below)

The lakeside Pavilion, a big, open-air structure with large picnic tables, is available for group rentals. A grill & serving area connect by breezeway. A new 20’ x 24’ deck with seating fronts the pavilion. For a private atmosphere, the rustic Dining Hall*, situated on a hill, offers a panorama of the lake from its oversize deck and indoor seating. Small groups to 25 may prefer the lakeside Gazebo with large grill and tables nearby.

Additionally, the OEC offers a small dressing room, shower house (for overnight guests only), picnic grove with tables and grills, grass and sand beaches, campfire ring, clay volleyball court, and small basketball court. A spring water dispenser is located in the Pavilion.

OEC Location & Directions

The OEC is located at 297 Upper Pattagansett Road, East Lyme, CT

The center is located in East Lyme, CT, only 42 miles from New Haven via I-95 north.

Know Before You Go: Unless you are part of a rental group, all visitors must either have a Membership or purchase a Day-Use Pass to access the OEC. 
Click Here for Information on Memberships and Day-Use Passes. 

Google Maps Link

Click Here for a Site Map


OEC Contact Information

Email: oec@yale.edu

Phone: 203-432-2492
(Note: This phone number is for administrative purposes only, i.e., memberships, rental questions, general information, etc., and is not answered on weekends or holidays.)

Mailing Address: 

Yale Outdoor Center
P.O. Box 208216
New Haven, CT 06520-8216

History of the OEC

The Yale Outdoor Education Center was founded and named by Yale Medal recipient Edward C. Migdalski, father of the current director, who was the director from its creation in 1966 to 1984, when his son Tom took over management. Ed passed away in 2009 at age 91. He was a pioneer of the outdoor recreation concept and club sports movement nationally, and the author of nine outdoor-sports books, primarily on fishes and fishing. Prior to joining the Athletics Department in 1966, Ed was a world explorer, specimen collector and taxidermist at Yale’s Peabody Museum in New Haven. Some of his work is still present there. His taxidermy work is also viewable in the fish display case on the OEC boat dock.

Prior to 1966, the OEC was called the Yale Engineering Camp, part of the Sheffield Scientific School, which was used for summer field-work experience for Yale students enrolled in the Engineering program. Some of the land was purchased by Yale, but most of it was gifted by donors for Yale’s use in perpetuity.

Yale dissolved civil engineering as major study in the mid-1960s, which is when Ed Migdalski was given control of the camp for two years on a trial basis to see if he could successfully turn it into a recreation center after his presentation to then Yale treasurer Charles Gage.

The cabins and other buildings were constructed in the early 1920s. The cabins were the summer dorm rooms for field study students, and they were comprised of five rooms each with one exterior door each. You could not walk between rooms, and they only contained two bunk beds and a single pull-chain light bulb hanging from the ceiling per room. There were no sinks, refrigeration, kitchenette, running water or decks.

The dining hall, which we now rent for special events like weddings, receptions and meetings, was a dining hall back then, too, staffed by two cooks, and the students would walk up the footpath from the cabins for three meals a day there. The showerhouse was only one large room, not divided into three like now, with two open tin showers and long, trough-like wash sinks with 10 faucets each for wash-up before meals. Back then, Yale wasn’t coed, so it was an all men’s camp; thus, the open showers weren’t an issue.

The woods used to come right up to the front (lake side) of the dining hall, and there was therefore no view of the lake; likewise, we added the deck off the front to enhance special occasion usage. We also finished the bare floors, installed new windows, and added interior siding. The wood tables and benches in the hall are original antiques to the mid-1920s. But the sink, stove, hot water and refrigeration are all newer.

The outhouses back then were wooden and two-seaters, and one would sprinkle lime (like the white, granular type used on lawns) into the outhouse after doing one’s business to “cure” it; in other words, they were “dry” with no liquid. They had a trap door behind them, and a caretaker would shovel them out each winter.

Besides renovating the cabins, we widened the roads, previously only one lane and passable only by means of pullovers. Drivers would honk their horn in advance or be forced to back up a long distance to the last pullover. The speed bumps in our road were always there, but they are equally for water drainage purposes, and not just speed bumps. Their old-time name is a “Thank-You Mam” because on steep, long hills (not located here), they were used for horses to take a break and rest wagon wheels against them.

We built the pavilion in 1981, which was funded by a Mr. Don Hopkins, who paid for construction materials, and the Yale Graduate School of Architecture designed it and provided the labor as part of its graduation requirement. The design was one chosen by Ed Migdalski for its detached cooking area via a “breezeway,” one of a number in a competition from a series of to-scale models built by the grad students.

The picnic groves never existed either, and it was just a wooded shore where the tables are now, and it looked like the rest of the lake’s wooded shoreline. Likewise, we added the grass beach, sand beach, swim dock, boat dock and gazebo, all through alumni donations. (Please contact the OEC director if you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution for a special project or purchase at the Outdoor Center.)

Cabin 7 & 8 used to be one long cabin, like the others, and it was in front of the pavilion between the recreation cabin and the cabin 9. Tom Migdalski cut down two straight oak trees, and we built a sled from them. Caretaker Bill Kowalski cut the cabin in half with a chainsaw, and we used a bulldozer and a backhoe to load them onto the oak-tree sled and drag them to their current position.

We originally built the goat pen as a duck pond with a dozen ducks, and water pumped in from the lake. But predators got after the ducks. After that, it housed sheep for a few summers.

All the property surrounding the lake is private and owned by Yale. The dam, which is around to the right side, is state-controlled for water-level safety. The boat launch, located to the left and around the bend, is also state owned. The water itself is state controlled; therefore, anyone may swim or launch from the state ramp, but nobody may go ashore elsewhere on the lake. Motorboats are allowed from the state launch only, but the lake has an 8-mph speed limit. You also must have a state inland-waters fishing license to fish in the lake, which is named Powers Lake.

The current director Tom Migdalski started his “employment” at the OEC as a young boy, raking the entire beach each night for .50 from his father’s pocket. Tom was a lifeguard here through his high school and college days, eventually being promoted to waterfront director and assistant director. He has made four lifesaving rescues at the Center.

During the school year, Tom, who holds a Master’s Degree in Recreation and College Teaching, is the director of club sports and intramurals at Yale. Like his father, he is the author of many outdoor recreation magazine articles and three books.

What is MyRec?

MyRec is the web portal for members of Payne Whitney Gym, the Outdoor Education Center, and Campus Recreation programs. 

Click here to visit myrec.yale.edu

Summer 2023 Memberships will be available for purchase beginning April 1st, 2023. 

Yale Students are automatically provided a MyRec account.

Yale Faculty/Staff, Yale Retirees, Yale Alumni and Yale New Haven Hospital Employees who are members of PWG already have a MyRec account. Others can make an appointment with Membership Services to activate their account. Click here to make an appointment

East Lyme Residents can email oec@yale.edu to activate their account.

OEC Hours Of Operation

OEC Hours of Operation

OEC Hours of Operation

OEC 2023 Season Dates: Friday, June 16th - Monday, September 4th. 
2023 Holidays: The OEC is open on Juneteenth (June 19th), Independence Day (July 4th), and Labor Day (September 4th).


 OEC General


Notes & Additional Information Includes picnic areas
& general access
Includes swimming
& water craft access
Tuesday - Friday 9:30am - 5:30pm 10am - 12pm
& 1pm- 5pm
Saturday & Sunday 9:30am - 6pm 10am - 12pm
& 1pm- 5:30pm

OEC Memberships

OEC Memberships

OEC Memberships 

Eligibility: OEC Memberships are available to Yale Students, Yale Faculty/Staff, Yale Retirees, Yale Alumni,  employees of Yale New Haven Hospital (not Yale New Haven Health) and East Lyme Residents as well as individuals within their households who are compliant with the university’s vaccination and, when relevant, visitors policies.  

Benefits of OEC Membership include access during all operating hours throughout the season as well as priority scheduling for overnight rentals the following season. 

How to purchase an OEC Membership

Summer 2023 Memberships will be available for purchase beginning April 1st, 2023. 

OEC Memberships can be purchased online via MyRec. Those with a MyRec account can click here to purchase a membership. 

Yale Students are automatically provided a MyRec account.

Yale Faculty/Staff, Yale Retirees, Yale Alumni and Yale New Haven Hospital Employees who are members of PWG already have a MyRec account. Others can make an appointment with Membership Services to activate their account. Click here to make an appointment

East Lyme Residents can email oec@yale.edu to activate their account.

COVID & Vaccination Requirements

OEC members and guests must be compliant with the university’s vaccination and, when relevant, visitors policies.  

Yale Students, Faculty, & Staff

As long as you are compliant with the university’s vaccination policy, you are welcome to purchase an OEC Membership or Day-Use Pass.

Yale Alumni, Retirees, YNHH Employees, and East Lyme Residents

Those who are OEC members, overnight rental patrons, and/or those who visit the OEC four days or more within a calendar month must complete the COVID-19 Vaccination Attestation for Visitors. (Enter oec@yale.edu as Host Email Address). 

OEC Membership Rates


Individual Season

Family Season

OEC Access Provides access for the duration of the 2023 Season. Provides access for the duration of the 2023 Season.
Membership Definition Membership is for individual use only.

Membership is for family use only.
At least one parent/guardian must quailify as a Yale Student, Yale Affiliate or East Lyme Resident.
Family is defined as 2-parent/guardians and 
4-dependents 17 years of age or below.

Additional Guests

Day-UsePasses must be purchased
for any additional guests.
In total, the party cannot exceed 8 individuals.
(including the sponsoring member)

Day Passes must be purchased for
any additional guests.
In total, the party cannot exceed 8 individuals.
(including the family members)
Yale Students $110 $175

Yale Affiliates
Yale Faculty/Staff,
Yale Alumni, Yale Retiree,
or Yale New Haven Hospital Employee
(not Yale New Haven Health Employee)

$150 $225
East Lyme, CT
$150 $225

PWG/OEC Membership Services: Book an Appointment

Current PWG Members

Renew Your Membership Online

Renew Your Locker Online

Prospective PWG & OEC Members who need to activate their MyRec account

Schedule a Membership Appointment

Contact PWG/OEC Membership Services

Phone:  203-432-2497

Email Us

OEC Day-Use Passes & Guests

OEC Day-Use Passes & Guests

Summer 2023 Day-Use Passes will be available for purchase beginning June 15th, 2023. 

OEC Access Provides one-day access.

Day-Use Guests: At least one member of the party must qualify as a Yale Faculty/Staff, Yale Alumni, Yale Retiree, Yale New Haven Hospital Employee (not Yale New Haven Health) or East Lyme Resident.

OEC Members may sponsor Day-Use visitors. 

Overnight Rentals may sponsor Day-Use visitors. 

Individuals within party In total, the party cannot exceed 8 individuals. 
Individuals ages 6 and older $10/person
Children ages 5 and under  Free
Day-Use Visitor Access Day-Use visitors may access the OEC during all operating hours. Day-Use visitors must exit the OEC before each day’s closing, including the guests of Overnight Rentals. 

Methods of Payment

Cash, check, or debit/credit cards are accepted. (Cash transactions cannot exceed more than $20/transaction.)

OEC Rentals: Overnight & Groups

OEC Rental Rates & General Information

2023 Overnight Rental Rates

Reservations cannot exceed 2 cabins and/or 8 individuals in total.  Each overnight rental can accommodate up to 4 adults or 2 adults and 4 children. 
Individual requesting the reservation must be a OEC member to qualify for member rates.
Rates include access and use of OEC amenities and waterfront.

Email oec@yale.edu or call 203-432-2492 to request or to check availability for OEC Overnight Rentals

    5-Day, 4-Night 4-Day, 3-Night 3-Day, 2-Night
  Length of Stay Check in Wednesday Only
Check Out Sunday Only
Check In Day 1
Check Out Day 4
Check In Day 1
Check Out Day 3
OEC Member $350 $290 $210
OEC Non-Member $475 $400 $280
OEC Member $110 $100 $70
OEC Non-Member $235 $200 $140
OEC Member $145 $120 $90
OEC Non-Member $270 $230 $160

OEC 2023 Group Space Rental Rates

Group Rentals require a signed User Agreement, and non-Yale groups require a Certificate of Insurance (COI).
Email oec@yale.edu for questions about groups rentals.
Please include the following: Name, Date of Request, Space Request, and Yale Affiliation (if any).

Fees below include the space rental only. There is an additional $10/person fee for each guest of your event.

Facility Fees
Pavilion $700/Day
Dining Hall   $700/Day
(Dining Hall & Pavilion)
Gazebo $150/Day
Round Table area
(under 15 people)
Group Overnight Campsite
(Includes large shelter and
space for up to 4 tents.
25 person maximum limit)


Notification of Cancellations must be made in writing to oec@yale.edu.

Individuals who cancel within 10 days of receiving the email confirmation containing their invoice and payment instructions will receive a fund refund for any payments applied to their invoice. If no payments have been applied the invoice will be voided with no further penalty.

Individuals who cancel after the date of the 50% down payment is due or 14 days before the final payment is due will receive a full refund for any payments applied to their invoice minus a cancellation and processing fee.

Individuals who cancel within the 14 days when their final payment is due will not be refunded their 50% deposit and the cancellation and processing fee will be applied to any remaining payments made before the 50% deposit fee. A refund will be issued for any remaining balance thereafter.  

Cancellation & Processing Fees: Campsites & Shelters: $50, Cabins: $150

General Rental FAQs

How do I rent a cabin or campsite?

Email oec@yale.edu for questions about overnight rentals. 

Do I have to buy a membership to rent a cabin or campsite?

No, there are both member and non-member rates for overnight rentals. 

Can I reserve an overnight rental (cabin, campsite, or shelter) for a single night?

No overnight rentals require a 3-day, 2-night minimum. 

Can I rent more than one cabin or campsite?

You can rent two cabins (or two campsites) for yourself and a guest(s). More than two rentals requires a signed Use Agreement and insurance policy of 2 million dollars. You are responsible for your guest’s behavior and must be present during rental.

How long is an overnight rental week (cabin, campsite, or shelter)?

A rental week is 5-days, 4-nights, beginning Wednesday check-in at 10am to Sunday checkout at 5pm.

When can we check-in and when is check-out?

Check-in for your reservation is between 10am and 5pm on the date of your scheduled arrival. Please note that if you arrive prior to 10am we may not be able to accommodate your check-in or load-in. Check-out is anytime before 5pm on the date of your scheduled departure.

How many people can a rental accommodate and are visitors allowed?

Rental Party Size: Reservations cannot exceed 2 cabins and/or 8 individuals in total.  Each overnight rental can accommodate up to 4 adults or 2 adults and 4 children. You will be asked to provide the names of your party upon check-in.

Day Visitors: You are welcome to invite additional visitors during your stay, however there is a $10/person fee for each visitor. Visitors must depart the OEC by 6pm.

Behavior & Presence: Members and primary rental contacts are responsible for the actions of their rental party and day visitors at all times. Primary rental contacts must be always present and on-site with their rental party and day visitors. Rentals are not transferable to others.

When are quiet hours?

To preserve the enjoyment of all overnight rentals, we require all guests to observe quiet hours between 10pm and 8am. Music, singing, shouting, excessive noise, etc. is not permitted.


Cabin Rental FAQs

What is in a cabin?

Cabins 2-6 have 2 sleeping areas (2 bunk beds, 1 twin trundle (pulls out to a full).  In the kitchenette there is counter space, a two-burner hot plate, refrigerator with freezer and small kitchen sink with cold running water.

Cabins 1,7-9 have been renovated to include paneled walls and painted floors. They have 2 sleeping areas (2 bunk beds, 1 twin trundle (pulls out to a full), a door separates the two sleeping areas.  In the kitchenette there is counter space, a two-burner hot plate, full-size refrigerator and small kitchen sink with hot & cold running water.

Each cabin has its own charcoal grill, picnic table and small deck with view of the lake.

*All cabins have electricity and bottled Poland Spring water.

*There are no indoor toilets at the OEC, portable toilets are located outside and behind cabins. They are cleaned twice weekly.

How many people can stay in a cabin?

4 Adults or 2 Adults and 4 children

What should I bring if I am staying in a cabin?

Partial list only!

Sheets or sleeping bags, pillows

Towels, soap, etc

Pots & pans (anything you will need to cook with)

Eating utensils (paper plates, plastic forks, spoons, etc)

Cleaning products (garbage bags, dish soap, paper towels, etc)

Bug spray and sunscreen


Charcoal for grill

Food and beverages

Campsite Rental FAQs

What is on a campsite?

The campsites have a grill, fire ring, picnic table, parking space and room for 1 large tent or 2 small tents. Bottled Poland Spring water. Limited campfire wood available upon request.

How many people can stay on the campsite?

4 Adults or 2 Adults and 4 children

What should I bring for camping?

Partial list only!


Sleeping bag

Towels, soap, etc

Pots & Pans (anything you will need to cook with)

Eating utensils (paper plates, plastic forks, spoons, etc)

Cleaning products (garbage bags, dish soap, paper towels, etc)

Bug Spray and sunscreen


Charcoal for grill

Food, beverages and cooler