When would you guess that the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in Cascade Locks, Oregon was built? 1990’s? 1970’s? During the hippy days of the 1960’s? Would you believe it was 1909?! I was very surprised because I didn’t think hatcheries came into existence until much more recently in response to dams and concerns about endangered fish. But this one was built as a rearing site for eggs that were received from other hatcheries. At that time it was known as “Central Hatchery”. The hatchery sits on Tanner Creek, which flows into the Columbia River. In 1930 it was expanded to be able to hold 11 million salmon. It was expanded again in 1978 and again in 1998. The facilities are built on the site where Lewis and Clark camped on April 9, 1806!
We spent one recent spring day there and it was heartwarming to see so many other families there introducing their children to the fish and learning about conservation and the lives of fish. The beautifully manicured grounds is very welcoming. You can pick up a free tour guide that will lead you around the facility and tell you all about it and what fish are in each pond or “battery” as some of the rearing ponds are called.
There are beautiful Rainbow Trout ponds.
You can even feed the fish. There are vending machines and for a small price you can buy food and toss it to the fish and watch them snap it up very quickly.
The White Sturgeon Pond was amazing! The fish are the size of a tree trunk! You can watch them swimming lazily through the water from above, or go down below into a view area and feel like they are swimming straight towards you. Kids love to see how the Sturgeon look like they have their bones on the outside of their body. They’re very majestic looking fish though, and you can’t help but stare at them for a very long time.
You can also see the Egg Incubation Building which is on the National Historic Register and includes a Visitor Information Center.
Finally, you have to stop at the Oregon Wildlife Bonneville Gift Shop where they have a lot of souvenirs and wildlife conservation items to choose from. All proceeds benefit fish and wildlife projects.
To help you plan your visit you can see the Tour Guide here: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/visitors/docs/Bonneville_Hatchery_Self-guided_Tour.pdf
From April to August the hatchery is open from 7:30am-8pm. September and October hours are 7:30am-7pm. November to March it’s open from 7:30-5pm.
Getting there: Take I-84 east from Portland to exit 40 Bonneville Dam/Fish Hatchery and just follow the signs.