The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

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View other hatcheries in the southeast 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! 

Alien life form or the cutest little juvenile lake sturgeon that you've ever seen? Mammoth Spring NFH raises cuties like this!

Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery - Arkansas

Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery was established in 1903. It was built in the Ozark foothills in northeast Arkansas because of the cool flowing water from the world’s tenth largest spring and its easy access to the railroad. Their current programs include recovery of endangered and threatened species like freshwater mussels and the restoration of Gulf Coast striped bass and rainbow trout in the White River drainage. They also produce lake sturgeon, walleye, largemouth bass, golden shiner, and threadfin shad!

🚙 Trip Highlights

Keep an eye on the hatchery’s Facebook page to plan your trip around the hatchery’s annual kid’s fishing day! If you’re not there during a fishing day, stop at the display pond for a chance to feed the fish and see them up close!
If you’ve ever wanted to cosplay as Katniss Everdeen, or just think based on games of darts that you have exceptional aim, then be sure to visit Mammoth Spring during one of their archery lessons! Scheduled events at the hatchery offer guests a chance to take aim with a bow and arrow and learn a new skill.
Birding abounds at Mammoth Spring! Don’t forget your binoculars, because you’ll get a chance to see plenty of our feathery friends, including blue herons and bald eagles.
Get up close and personal with the hatchery’s past at the Aquatic Education Center and Aquarium! History buffs will love to get a peek at the items on display, including old fish transportation containers, fish dishes (say that five times fast) from the railroad cars, an old fiddle from the local area, and more!
Hatchery staff recommend photography as the artistic outlet of choice! In addition to the wonderful critters on site (frogs, plants, birds, foxes, you name it), the hatchery also hosts occasional star gazing events where you can learn about astronomy while practicing some of your star photography!

🚧 Detour

Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery is located near (SHOCKER!) Mammoth Spring State Park. But this isn’t some ordinary’s one of the largest in the world, with NINE MILLION gallons flowing through it every hour! This is also where the hatchery gets all of its water (DOUBLE SHOCKER!). There’s really no contest, this detour is a must!

🎶 Featured Song

Get a full jam session in when you listen to the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” as you coast through Arkansas.

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to Mammoth Spring 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

Education outreach
Fish hatcheries
Sport fishing

Recreational Activities