The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

View other hatcheries in the northeast series!

Picture this: You're driving down the interstate, cruise control on, windows down, stereo blasting. It's a perfect 80 degrees, you don't have to work, and you've got the whole day ahead of you. You pull off the road and a beautiful vista lies in front of you. A pond sparkles in the sunshine, birds are chirping happily in the trees, and best of's peaceful. You pop the trunk and pull out a fishing pole, that set of watercolors you've been meaning to use, your best pair of broken-in hiking boots, and breathe in the fresh summer air. But wait, where the heck are you?  

Is it a national park? If we were going on overall vibes, the answer might be yes.  

Is it a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
? Getting warmer, but think more fins.  

Is it one of the nation's most underrated outdoor destinations...national fish hatcheries? Ding ding ding! We have a winner!  

The National Fish Hatchery System has been improving recreational fishing and restoring aquatic species since 1872 (uhhhh, yeah that makes them 150 years old!) and yet, lots of folks might not even know that their grounds are often open to the public and entry is FREE! The wonderful thing about fish hatcheries is that they offer something for everyone in your more disgruntled sighs from the backseat! 

Each hatchery highlighted in our road trip series is over 100 years old and has four sections of information: 

🚙 Trip Highlights: This is where you'll find hatchery activity suggestions for different folks in your group. These aren't full lists, just some of the things we think are pretty cool. Before you hit the road, be sure to check each hatchery's web page for additional activities and we recommend calling ahead to check on their opening status and any possible closures. We've also got some good info on how and where to purchase a fishing license, if that's on your activity itinerary!

🚧 Detour: Is it really a road trip if you only go to one place? Well, yeah, but where's the fun in that? We've provided each hatchery with a nearby pit stop suggestion for the free spirits among us. (Full disclosure, besties: We haven't actually been to any of these spots and are in no way promoting them over other destinations, they just sound fun. Please do your research beforehand to check on fees, accessibility, travel restrictions, etc!)

🎶 Featured Song: One of the best parts of a road trip is the playlist. You probably have your own set of cool tunes, but we couldn't resist including some other suggestions for your listening pleasure!

🧭 Road Map: Ok, it's not actually a real map, but it's a fun, colorful graphic you can share online or print out for your trip! 

Buckle those seatbelts, we’re taking you on a ride through some of the nation’s oldest hatcheries that you’ll definitely want to add to your summer road trip itineraries and they are free to the public. First up in the series, hatcheries over 100 years old in the northeast! 

Dwight D. Eisenhower's not just for school groups. Make this road trip extra special by stopping at the display pool to feed the fish! Photo credit: USFWS

Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery - Vermont

The Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery is a 35-acre facility located in the lush Green Mountains of Vermont. The hatchery was constructed in 1909 and over 100 years later, is still rearing landlocked Atlantic salmon. The hatchery also raises lake trout and brook trout for recreational fishing in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain and brook trout for Vermont’s anglers.

🚙 Trip Highlights

Grab your fishing gear and head to Furnace Brook, which flows through the hatchery grounds. This is a great spot to catch brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Recreational fishing is permitted on Furnace Brook from existing public access points on the hatchery and additional fishing opportunities can be found along the banks of hatchery property adjacent to Furnace Brook, during hatchery open hours.
The hatchery is located near the town of Pittsford, where you can get access to a trail network for walking, hiking, jogging, cross-country skiing, or whatever else you’re into. One hiking trail that local staff recommend is the Chaffee Falls loop that features a beautiful cascade along Furnace Brook. Alternative option: stay in the car and take a drive through the Green Mountains!
OMG, you can feed fish at this hatchery! Head to the display pool to participate and get a good look at all the beautiful fish as they chow down!

A fun little factoid for the history lover of the group: This facility was originally called the Pittsford National Fish Hatchery, but then was re-named after 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower when the hatchery's reconstruction was completed in 1959. 

Food artists, this one’s for you! Feed the fish, then feed yourselves! Design and decorate some beautiful fish-themed cupcakes and bring them along for a fancy picnic. Pro tip: the amazing colors and patterns of Atlantic salmon and brook trout would make for some stellar confections. Bonus points if you just so happen to snap some amazing photos of those sweet fish treats at the hatchery and send them our way! 

🚧 Detour

Roughly an hour and a half drive from the hatchery is the town of Thetford, home to the Vermontasaurus, a gigantic pile of scrap wood in the shape of a dinosaur. We’re not sure this needs any additional selling points as a must-see attraction, but apparently now there’s also a BABY VERMONTASAURUS. You’re welcome. 

🎶 Featured Song

It might seem like a odd choice, but add Weezer's "Long Time Sunshine" to your playlist. I mean, what better way to cruise around Vermont than while listening to a song that tells you to pack up your things, hop on a bus, and move to Vermont? Bonus points if you are, in fact, on a bus.

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery, please call ahead for visitor hours and check out their website for even more to do during your visit. You can also download a high resolution PDF of the map!

Story Tags

Connecting people with nature
Fish hatcheries
Freshwater fish

Recreational Activities