The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

Written By

View other hatcheries in the pacific northwest 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. 

Excuse me, how are these views at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery even real?!

Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery - Washington

Founded in 1898, Little White Salmon is the oldest Columbia River hatchery and a pioneer of salmon propagation. The hatchery raises and releases roughly 7.2 million young spring and up-river bright fall Chinook salmon each year. The hatchery mitigates fishery losses due to hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and provides for an important sport fishery, while also fulfilling Tribal Trust responsibilities. Basically, they're pretty awesome!

🚙 Trip Highlights

Fishing opportunities abound along the hatchery’s entrance road and nearby Drano Lake is one of the most popular salmon fishing sites in the gorge! Little White Salmon also offers fishing access to people with disabilities with their accessible fishing ramp.
The Wild and Scenic Little White Salmon River offers a glimpse of world class kayakers coming down the river, serene river views, waterfalls, and wildlife viewing. Participate in one or all of those activities and more in this outdoor paradise!
Visitors have the opportunity to view a variety of mammals including black bears, mink, otter, and even the occasional mountain lion. Also keep your eyes peeled for an array of birds including bald eagles, golden eagles, osprey, American dipper, great blue heron, and belted kingfisher.
Little White Salmon’s site was selected since it was considered one of the principal spawning areas of the Quinnat or Chinook salmon. In 1898, it was noted that 2-3 salmon were speared in a single cast!
Get ready to start your fancy travel blog after photographing the views in the scenic Little White Salmon River canyon! 

🚧 Detour

Epic views abound if you cross over the Bridge of the Gods on your way to Little White Salmon! But obviously, the true detour is heading 10 minutes down the road to their sibling facility, the Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery

🎶 Featured Song

If you aren’t listening to Woody Guthrie’s “Roll on Columbia” while cruising alongside the nearby Columbia River, are you even on a road trip?! 

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to Little White Salmon 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
Education outreach
Environmental education
Fish hatcheries
Fisheries management