The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

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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. 

Quilcene National Fish Hatchery - Washington

Operational since 1911, the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery rears and releases coho salmon to fulfill Tribal Trust responsibilities and to enhance local recreational fishing and commercial harvesting.  The hatchery lies in a narrow valley on the east side of Washington's GORGEOUS Olympic Peninsula and is co-managed by the Port Gamble S' Klallam, Jamestown S, Klallam, Skokomish, Lower Elwha Klallam, and Suquamish Tribes. 

🚙 Trip Highlights

A trail from the hatchery allows anglers fishing access to the Big Quilcene River where you can catch coho salmon, chum salmon, or cutthroat trout!
The awesome thing about Quilcene is that it gives visitors a chance to see some cool hatchery features! Be sure to check out their fish ponds, fish ladder, and fish weir (fancy name for an obstruction that channels the fish). When you’re finished with the hatchery, you can spend the rest of the day checking out the views along the Big Quilcene River!
Calling all birders! The Big Quilcene River provides fantastic opportunities to spot stunning kingfishers and the adorably aquatic American dipper through most of the year. If you want to spot some majestic bald eagles, plan your trip sometime between August and November when the adult salmon are in the river!
Anyone interested in the history of the hatchery or their operations should make a pit stop at the hatchery’s visitor center. Guided tours of the hatchery facilities can even be arranged ahead of time, depending on staff availability.
The views at Quilcene are epic! We recommend channeling your inner Bob Ross and painting some of the happy little trees and mountain vistas

🚧 Detour

If you’re passing through Quilcene on your way to the hatchery, be sure to check out “Pearl of the Peninsula Art Park” with its collection of statues made from old buoys, propane tanks, and scrap metal. If weird scrap art isn’t your thing, you should head west to spend some time at Olympic National Park or head just upriver from the hatchery to the Falls View Canyon Trail in Olympic National Forest! 

🎶 Featured Song

This hatchery’s featured song comes to you from one of our very own USFWS employees! Get ready to sing the blues with Dan Spencer’s “Deep River Blues.” Dan is an Information and Education Specialist in our Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula Complex and will have you tapping your toes as you take in the majestic scenery with his dulcet tones. 

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to Quilcene 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
Fisheries management
Freshwater fish