August 3, 2017

Wandering Around The Willamette Fish Hatchery

On Sunday afternoon, driving back from a third straight day of fishing, I decided to make a small detour and see what was down the "Fish Hatchery Road" I'd kept passing all weekend. Set back a little bit from Route 58 in Oakridge, I found the Willamette Fish Hatchery... and well, I was pleasantly surprised with what I encountered.

Before we get to the fish, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has clearly set up the Willamette Fish Hatchery as an educational destination. The kind of place you could take kids (especially small ones) and easily spend half a day.

There's a very nice picnic area...

Wonderful landscaping and sculpture...

Educational mini golf (no, that's not a typo)...

Upland bird exhibits...

And a small museum speaking to Oregon wildlife and the history of the hatchery...

And then there were fish. Lots and lots of fish. Starting immediately across from the museum were two large swimming pool sized pens. They held some nice sized trout (that were noted for show, not stocking) as well as some big sturgeon. I'm not sure I've ever seen a sturgeon before, they were freaking huge!

Up next were the trout ponds. which consisted of about 10 raceways placed side by side. They were full of rainbow trout of various sizes.

A bit of a walk led to the main hatchery building and the salmon ponds. There had to be at least 40 individual ponds, and they were all filled with fingerling sized salmon. It was a sight to see, so many fish in one place, quite remarkable.

According to a brochure I picked up, "The salmon hatchery was established in 1911 to compensate for the loss of spawning and rearing areas in the middle fork of the Willamette River. Willamette Hatchery, in conjunction with other state-operated fish hatcheries, releases over five million spring Chinook salmon smolts annually into the Willamette River and its tributaries."

Saving perhaps the best for last, tucked behind the main hatchery building are the adult salmon holding ponds. Accessible from a viewing platform, this heavily secured area holds dozens of full-sized Spring Chinook salmon. These fish were collected and brought here, where later this Fall, the staff will collect the eggs & sperm from the adults to fertilize eggs to be incubated in the hatchery building. Each female salmon will yield approximately 4000 eggs.

Whether you're a fan or not of hatchery-raised fish, this little trip to the Willamette Fish Hatchery was an interesting and educational detour. I feel like I left understanding a little bit more than I knew about Oregon's fish and wildlife than I did prior to arrival. Plus, the grounds are really quite beautiful to walk through. With so much to offer, it's definitely worth a few hours of your time if you happen to be in the area.

For more info:

Willamette Fish Hatchery: 
76389 Fish Hatchery Road
Oakridge, OR 97463
(541) 782-2933

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