D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery and Archives

423 Hatchery Circle | Spearfish, SD 57783
Phone: (605) 642-7730 | Fax: (605) 642-2336 | Email: DCBooth@fws.gov

About The Hatchery

Our History | Hatchery Tour | D.C. Booth Museum | Partnerships | Volunteers | Fish Culture Hall of Fame Nominations | South Dakota Jr. Duck Stamp Program | Public Information | Open / Close All

A mesmerized visitor watches huge trout at the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in South Dakota. Credit: Booth Society.

A mesmerized visitor watches huge trout at the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in South Dakota. Credit: Booth Society.

100 years at Saratoga NFHThe Saratoga National Fish Hatchery in Saratoga, WY is celebrating 100 years of operation with events on July 3-4, 2015. Find out more here.

About Us

Established in 1896, D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives, formerly Spearfish National Fish Hatchery, is one of the oldest operating hatcheries in the country. Dedicated to fish culture and resource management, the hatchery was constructed to propagate, stock, and establish trout populations in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

Still rearing trout for the Black Hills through a cooperative effort with the State, the hatchery is also a museum and archive that serves to protect and preserve our nation’s fishery records and artifacts for educational, research, and historic purposes. With over 155,000 visitors and 14,000 volunteer hours annually, the facility also strives to provide interpretive and educational programs for the public.


Our History »

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View of D.C. Booth hatchery building and raceways in 1899, also called the Spearfish Station at that time. Credit: USFWS.

View of D.C. Booth hatchery building and raceways in 1899, also called the Spearfish Station at that time. Credit: USFWS.

Early 1890, a bill introduced in the United States Senate by South Dakota Senator R.F. Pettigrew, appropriated $500 for investigating the possibility of placing a fish culture station in Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana or the Dakotas.

Dr. B.W. Evermann headed a detail to undertake investigation of water resources in the area. Several localities in South Dakota were examined for their suitability. Spearfish was finally chosen because of the relative abundance of pure, cold spring water available for a gravity system and its accessibility to the town and regions railroad system. These favorable reports led to an initial appropriation of $5,000 by Congress on June 11, 1896, to establish a fish culture station in the Black Hills at Spearfish, South Dakota.

Land purchased June 10, 1898, is at the entrance to Ames Canyon on the southern boundary of the City of Spearfish. J. H. Russell Construction Company of Spearfish bid $5,995 for the construction of the hatchery building and ice house. By July 1, 1899, the contractor had nearly completed his work and seventeen fish ponds were nearly ready to receive fish. Mr. D.C. Booth was appointed superintendent of the hatchery. The fish hatchery building and ice house were formally accepted by the government on July 25, 1899.

D.C. Booth in 1899, also called the Spearfish Station at that time. Credit: USFWS.

D.C. Booth in 1899, also called the Spearfish Station at that time. Credit: USFWS.

As completed, the hatchery building was 66 feet long by 30 feet wide, a frame structure built upon a stone foundation. It contained a hatching room, office, reception hall and boiler room on the first floor, with two bedrooms and closets on the second floor. The hatching room contained 48 hatching troughs fitted with trays and was able to handle two million trout eggs.

Raceways and ponds were constructed on the slope south of the hatchery building. Ponds 1-8 (constructed in 1899) were native pine on the sides with earth-filled bottoms. Ponds 9-12 (1900) were lined with cypress. Ponds 13-16 were merely excavated, having earth bottoms and sides. Ponds 18-20 were excavated with lime-stone walls. Ponds 21-24 (1913) were constructed of cement with earth bottoms. Other buildings included the ice house (capacity of 35 tons of ice), a one-story frame structure that had two rooms for employee quarters, a barn and an annex for the barn (including a workshop) and structures to cover hydraulic pumps.

The hatchery building and ponds were supplied by pure spring water rising on the reservation. The normal average temperature of the water was very favorable for egg incubation. The springs were located at a sufficient elevation to provide a gravity system for distribution, conducted through a nine-inch iron pipe provided with brass valves at each pond and hatching trough.

D.C. Booth hatchery building in 1899. Credit: USFWS.

D.C. Booth hatchery building in 1899. Credit: USFWS.

Shortly after completion and lacking hatching trays and other equipment, a telegram was received from the Assistant Fish Commissioner in Washington, D.C., asking how soon the station would be ready to receive a shipment of trout eggs. The superintendent wired that the hatchery would be ready to receive eggs at any time. The hatchery crew set to work making hatchery trays, building supply troughs, installing faucets and turning on the spring water for the first shipment. By July 29, 1899, 100,000 trout eggs were in the process of incubation.

The hatchery site, located at the lower end of a mountain canyon, previously housed a saw mill that operated on the grounds with adjoining cook shacks, bunk houses, stables, blacksmith shop, lumber piles, refuse and sawdust that interfered with hatchery operations. Shortly after eggs were placed in the hatchery troughs in July 1899, a rain storm occurred, washing down tons of sawdust, horse manure, tin cans, rock, lumber, and other refuse. The refuse completely filled the spring reservoir supplying the hatchery building and depositing several inches of sediment in all the ponds and hatching troughs. After this experience, storm channels, bridges and bulkheads were constructed out of limestone rock and cement to prevent future flooding. Many are still in use today.

A residence for the Superintendent and his family was constructed in 1905. It is a two-story frame home with a stone basement, eight rooms and bath with hot water radiation heating.

In 1901, the Spearfish National Fish Hatchery began to operate an egg-gathering substation in Yellowstone National Park. Located on the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, the substation was mainly responsible for the collection of black-spotted trout eggs and their subsequent shipment to Spearfish for hatching and later distribution to other areas.

Since direct railroad service did not exist between Spearfish and Yellowstone Lake, an overland expedition was undertaken each year to gather the eggs and return them to Spearfish. The expedition usually left Spearfish in June, traveling by rail as far as possible. The last portion of the journey was made by wagon, with the wagons piled high with boats, nets, troughs, and other equipment. The annual Yellowstone expeditions were conducted from 1901-1911. At that time the hatchery at Bozeman, Montana, assumed responsibility for the Yellowstone egg-gathering and hatching operations.

Originally established as a subsidiary hatchery to Leadville, Colorado, the Spearfish National Fish Hatchery later became headquarters for federal fisheries operations in the Western United States, correlating activities at a number of other hatchery stations scattered through the West.

By the 1940s, the water supply at Spearfish had become increasingly undependable. This resulted in the acquisition of land 12 miles west of Spearfish from Judge McNenny and the State of South Dakota to rear fish. In 1949, a new hatchery was constructed and named the McNenny National Fish Hatchery. Between the McNenny and Spearfish National Fish Hatcheries, nearly one million fish were produced annually. The Spearfish center became a training academy for fish culture courses and a center for fish nutrition or diet development.

Ranch ARanch A, in Sand Creek Canyon, Wyoming, was acquired by the federal government in 1963 for development as a Fish Genetics Laboratory, a satellite operation of the Service's fish cultural research facility at Leetown, West Virginia. After transfer of the Genetics Lab to Leetown in 1979, Ranch A became part of the Spearfish Fisheries Center Complex and the new home of the Diet Development Center, previously housed at McNenny.

During severe budget constraints in the early 1980s, McNenny NFH was transferred to the State of South Dakota and the Spearfish hatchery was closed. Ranch A ceased operations in 1986. Although not in operation, the FWS retained ownership of Ranch A and the Spearfish hatchery. The City of Spearfish requested permission to operate the hatchery under an agreement with the FWS. Operations of the hatchery began again in 1984 with the City renaming the hatchery after its first superintendent D.C. Booth.

In 1989, Congress appropriated funding for construction of a state of the art museum property storage building, public restrooms, concession and underwater viewing area at D.C. Booth with the Fish and Wildlife Service resuming operations of the facility with a new mission to "assemble, preserve, protect, make accessible to researchers, and interpret the history and technology of fish culture". The Ranch A facility was transferred to the State of Wyoming in 1997 along with historic furniture and artifacts original to the site.


Hatchery Tour »


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  • 1963 Studebaker dump truck. Studebaker 1963 dump truck in front of D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery building and raceways. Credit: Randi Smith / USFWS.



    Welcome to the D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery Tour. Click on the right arrow to advance to the next slide.

  • Hatchery entrance kiosk. Credit: USFWS

    Entrance: Entry to the hatchery is through a kiosk at the city park.

  • Bridge over Spearfish Creek and ponds. Credit: USFWS

    Bridge: Suspended bridges take you across Spearfish Creek and ponds, where you have a chance to observe the fish and waterfowl.

  • Aquarium. Credit: USFWS

    Underwater Viewing Area: Visit our underwater viewing area where you can experience a close-up view of our trophy fish.

  • Aquarium. Credit: USFWS

    Underwater Viewing Area: Visit our underwater viewing area where you can experience a close-up view of our trophy fish.

  • Gift shop. Credit: USFWS

    Gift Shop: Walking across Pond 2 you will see our gift shop and information building.

  • Gift shop. Credit: USFWS

    Gift Shop: Walking across Pond 2 you will see our gift shop and information building.

  • Feeding ducks. Credit: USFWS

    Ponds: Feed fish and waterfowl from the duck deck. Public restrooms are located nearby.

  • D.C. Booth raceways. Credit: USFWS Fisheries.

    Raceways: Walk past our raceways and be sure to check out the fish swimming inside.

  • D.C. Booth museum. Credit: USFWS.

    Museum & Visitor's Center: Built in 1899, the museum is the oldest building on the grounds. Once crowed with wooden troughs of incubating fish eggs, the museum now contains exhibits of historic information and artifacts collected nationwide from fish management programs.

  • Hall of fame brick walk. Credit: USFWS.

    HNFH receives over 14,000 volunteer hours per year. Volunteers help give tours of the museum, fisheries railcar, historic Superintendent's house, with maintenance, and more. In this photo, Bob Boyd, a summer volunteer from Nebraska, waits to welcome visitors into the museum.

  • Spring stocking statue. Credit: USFWS.

    Spring Stocking Statue: This statue depicts hatchery workers stocking fish from milk cans which were used to transport fish and fish fry to stocking sites by wagon, railroad, and truck. Courtesy of the Booth Society, Inc.

  • Spring stocking statue. Credit: USFWS.

    Spring Stocking Statue: This statue depicts hatchery workers stocking fish from milk cans which were used to transport fish and fish fry to stocking sites by wagon, railroad, and truck. Courtesy of the Booth Society, Inc.

  • Hall of fame brick walk. Credit: USFWS.

    Hall of Fame Brickwalk: Bricks may be purchased and inscribed for placement in the brickwalk outside the Fish Culture Hall of Fame. Contact the American Fisheries Society, Fish Culture Section for more information.

  • Ice House - Fish Culture Hall of Fame. Credit: USFWS.

    Ice House: The original Ice House was built in 1899 and used to store ice. A replica building stands in its place today and serves as the Fish Culture Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame honors those who have made technological advances in fish culture.

  • Fish Car at DC Booth Historic Hatchery. Credit: Craig Springer / USFWS.

    Fish Car: Just up from the Yellowstone boat you will pass our railcar exhibit. Fish were transported and stocked coast to coast in specially built fish cars. This passenger car has been renovated into a replica fish car.

  • Cultural management facility. Credit: USFWS.

    Collection Management Building: Our cultural management facility contains offices, the museum property management program, and two regional archaeologists. Fishery artifacts and history from around the nation are stored at this location.

  • D.C. Booth house. Credit: dcboothfishhatchery.org.

    Booth House: The Booth House was built in 1905 as living quarters for the superintendent and his family. Used as a residence for hatchery employees until 1983, restoration work was undertaken to restore the home to the 1905 era. Tours of this building are conducted mid-May through mid-September.

  • Generations statue. Credit: Craig Springer / USFWS.

    Generations Statue: Donated by the Booth Society, Inc., this statue depicts family values and the importance of fisheries throughout the generations. James Maher of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, was commissioned for both this piece and the Spring Stocking statue.

  • Generations statue. Credit: Craig Springer / USFWS.

    Generations Statue: Donated by the Booth Society, Inc., this statue depicts family values and the importance of fisheries throughout the generations. James Maher of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, was commissioned for both this piece and the Spring Stocking statue.

  • Yellowstone Boat. Credit: USFWS.

    Yellowstone Boat: In the early 1900s, hatchery crews made excursions to Yellowstone Lake to collect cutthroat trout eggs and fish. The eggs were then distributed throughout the Black Hills and across the country. Dry docked near the raceway is one of the original boats used in the late 1920s.

Hatchery grounds are open year round from dawn till dusk. Staffed venues and visitor services are available mid-May thorough mid-September. There is no admission fee.

Map of D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery: Click here to download/view a map of the hatchery. (3.74 MB PDF)

 


D.C. Booth Museum »

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D.C. Booth Museum. Credit: USFWS.

D.C. Booth Museum. Credit: USFWS.

The Von Bayer Museum of Fish Culture was created to preserve the vibrant history and rich heritage of the American fisheries workers. We collect and preserve the historic objects from hatcheries throughout the country making them accessible to researchers and the public. In addition to collecting artifacts, we interpret the history and technology of fish culture so as to enrich the experience of the greater community. By utilizing the museum collection, we hope to increase the awareness of the various roles and the inestimable value of fish culture and fisheries in every day life. This includes the contributions of fish culture to the recreational and social wellbeing of the people of the United States and the world.

The museum facility is made up of the historic 1899 Hatchery Building housing the museum, and the 10,000 square foot Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF includes a 5,000 square foot storage area, conservation lab, accession and receiving area, and Fish and Wildlife Service Offices. These buildings provide for the use and preservation of the museum collections for future generations to enjoy and study.

The museum collection includes fish management and culture items and equipment, periodicals, publications and personal artifacts. Research facilities are open by appointment.

Contact DCBooth@fws.gov for information about possible internships available at the museum.

The Museum maintains a Want List of historic material needed for the museum collection. Gifts to the Fish and Wildlife Service are tax deductible as charitable contributions. For more information, please call 605-642-7730.


Partnerships »

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D.C. Booth Partnerships (Photos clockwise from top left) Stocking fish for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Statue at DC Booth, Youth helping out at the hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

D.C. Booth Partnerships (Photos clockwise from top left) Stocking fish for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Statue at DC Booth, Youth helping out at the hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

A unique five-way partnership at the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives is living proof of the old adage "many hands make light work". Our partnerships are highly valuable to us and enable us to better our services to the visiting public.

In addition to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, our partners include:

  • City of Spearfish
  • The Booth Society, Inc.
  • South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks
  • American Fisheries Society - Fish Culture Section


City of Spearfish
City of Spearfish, South Dakota logo.The City assists with public use functions in allowing an entrance kiosk on city park property, allowing visitor parking in an adjacent parking lot, parking lot maintenance, provide law enforcement and fire protection. They provide campground sites with full hookups to our seasonal volunteers. The City administers a portion of its hospitality tax revenue through the Booth Society to promote, market and provide visitor services at the hatchery.


Booth Society, Inc.
Booth Society, Inc logo.The Booth Society, our non-profit citizen based friends group, manages the gift shop, concession, public restrooms and information center. Funds from the gift shop are reinvested into site improvements. The Booth Society is instrumental in organizing special events, help with utility costs for some of the facilities on site, and management of a large summer volunteer staff. For younger visitors they provide educational outreach at the local school systems, developed a youth volunteer program and scavenger hunt. The Booth Society takes volunteer applications year round. Contact the Booth Society at the hatchery.


South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks – McNenny State Fish Hatchery
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks logo.McNenny State Fish Hatchery utilizes our ponds and raceways for rearing fish for public benefit and fish conservation purposes. They coordinate fish production with the D.C. Booth personnel, are responsible for pond stocking, feeding fish, cleaning ponds, monitors pollution and compliance with appropriate laws & regulations, and maintains permits associated with discharges from the facility.


American Fisheries Society - Fish Culture Section
American Fisheries Society Logo.The American Fisheries Society , Fish Culture Section’s Hall of Fame is located in a replica ice house on site. The Fish Culture Hall of Fame honors persons making technological advances in fish culture. Location at the hatchery is due to the hatchery's history, large collection of fish culture artifacts and location of the hatchery in a popular tourist area. Exhibits and information about inductees are displayed. Nominations to the Fish Culture Hall of Fame must be submitted by March.

In, addition, many local volunteer citizens, civic groups, and school groups are actively involved with the hatchery's operations, education, and outreach. These dedicated partners and volunteers keep the treasured D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery available to you, your family, and future generations.


Volunteers »

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Volunteers: Want to help? We're always looking for helping hands and people with good hearts.
We could not operate without our volunteers! Volunteers of all ages are welcome to sign up as a volunteer. For commuting volunteers, campsites may be available. Read our Volunteer Program info and fill out a volunteer application today!

  • Along with the Hall of Fame, the Fish Culture Section maintains a Brick Walk of Fame. The public can purchase an engraved memorial brick to be placed in the brick walk. For information on nominations to the Fish Culture Hall of Fame or to purchase a brick, email the hatchery.
  • Would you like to become a member of the Booth Society, either actively or as an informed participant? Donations collected by the Booth Society help maintain and repair structures on site, provide special projects, and help keep the site open and free to all visitors. Funds collected enabled the Booth Society to commission the Generations statue, depicting family values and importance of fish culture to generations. Another statue will be placed on site representing the history of fish culture. This statue, called Spring Stocking, depicts two hatchery workers stocking fish from a milk can. If you would like to participate as a member, contact the Booth Society at (605) 642-5668.


Fish Culture Hall of Fame Nominations »

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Fish Culture Hall of Fame Nominations: (Photos clockwise from left) Fish Culture Hall of Fame located in a replica 1899 Ice House, Fishcar and Ice House entrance, Hall of Fame brick walkway. Credit: USFWS.

Fish Culture Hall of Fame Nominations: (Photos clockwise from left) Fish Culture Hall of Fame located in a replica 1899 Ice House, Fishcar and Ice House entrance, Hall of Fame brick walkway. Credit: USFWS.

Fish Culture Hall of Fame Nomination Criteria
Established in 1985 by the Fish Culture Section of the American Fisheries Society, the Hall of Fame (HOF) honors persons who have made significant contributions to the advancement of fish culture. The Hall of Fame is located in a replica 1899 Ice House located at the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Objectives of the Hall of Fame:

  • To recognize fish culturists and others who have contributed in an outstanding or significant manner to the advancement of fish culture.
  • To provide a permanent site where mementos and contributions of those honored can be viewed by fish culturists, workers and the general public.
  • Emphasize to persons interested in fishery resources and fish culture the accomplishment, dedication, and principles of those honored and associated with the Hall of Fame.
  • Promote the art and science of fish culture and related activities.

Selection Process & Criteria:

  • Individuals selected for the Hall of Fame must have made significant contributions to the science and technology of fish culture. Contributions can be in the areas of cultural research, development of methods and equipment, administration and/or promotion of cultural programs, or in related fields such as nutrition, disease control, water quality, bioengineering, education, etc.
  • Living Persons - Minimum 55 years of age; minimum of 25 years of service to fish culture or aquaculture; significant accomplishments in fish culture or aquaculture.
  • Deceased Persons - Deceased for at least one year; minimum of 25 years service to fish culture or aquaculture; significant accomplishments in fish culture or aquaculture.

Wesley Orr is presented with a plaque bearing his name and summarizing the work he did to improve the art and science of fish culture by revolutionizing rainbow trout broodstock, husbandry, and production.  Wes Orr is on the left; Jim Boker is on the right. His plaque has joined others at the American Fisheries Society Fish Culture Section Hall of Fame located at DC Booth HNFH. Orr and Gary Wedemeyer were the 2013 inductees; the plaque was presented at a ceremony in May 2013 at DC Booth by Jim Boker, the Fish Culture Section president.

Wesley Orr is presented with a plaque bearing his name and summarizing the work he did to improve the art and science of fish culture by revolutionizing rainbow trout broodstock, husbandry, and production. Wes Orr is on the left; Jim Boker is on the right. His plaque has joined others at the American Fisheries Society Fish Culture Section Hall of Fame located at DC Booth HNFH. Orr and Gary Wedemeyer were the 2013 inductees; the plaque was presented at a ceremony in May 2013 at DC Booth by Jim Boker, the Fish Culture Section president.

Nominee System:

  • Nominations may be submitted at any time by letter of nomination or a biographical sketch and description of accomplishments.
  • Nominations received by the Hall of Fame coordinator will be kept on file and reviewed by the Hall of Fame Committee during the spring of each year (by majority vote) and will recommend approved nominations for vote by the membership.
  • Approved nominations are sent to the membership for election (must be approved by 2/3 of all persons voting) with results presented at the Annual Meeting. Nominees approved will be inducted into the Hall of Fame the following spring during the month of May.
  • For additional information contact the Fish Culture Hall of Fame Coordinator.


South Dakota Jr. Duck Stamp Program »

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The Junior Duck Stamp Program is an annual art contest that provides students with the opportunity to learn about biology and express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of wildlife through art.

The Junior Duck Stamp Contest, partnered with a dynamic arts curriculum, teaches wetlands and waterfowl conservation to students in kindergarten through high school.

Since the Junior Duck Stamp Contest was introduced in South Dakota in 1993, over 10,000 students have submitted artwork in the state. In 2013, over 800 South Dakota students participated in the program; and throughout the United States, over 27,000 students submitted artwork to a state contest.

Annual revenue from the sales of Junior Duck Stamps raises an estimated $200,000 annually to fund scholarships, support the contest, and create environmental education opportunities for students who participate in the program.

For more information about the South Dakota contest, please see visit: http://www.sdjuniorduck.org


Public Information »

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D.C. Booth Public Information (Photos clockwise from  left) Kids school visit to DC Booth, Kids Fishing derby catch, Young girl observes fish at underground viewing area. Credit: USFWS.

D.C. Booth Public Information (Photos clockwise from left) Kids school visit to DC Booth, Kids Fishing derby catch, Young girl observes fish at underground viewing area. Credit: USFWS.

D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives provides many exciting visitor opportunities, as well as gives back to the local communities. Open to the public, D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives welcomes visitors to the historic hatchery and museum for an educational closeup view of the fish production process.

With over 145,000 visitors annually, the dedicated staff and volunteer hosts at the Visitor Center and Museum bring the hatchery experience alive with educational hatchery and museum tours and exhibits. Educational programs/tours are provided for the public and school groups during business hours. The hatchery has also worked closely with the Spearfish school system to develop an on-sight curriculum for all teachers K-5th grade.

Some of the many exciting recreational, cultural, and educational opportunities are:

  • Museum tours
  • Underwater fish viewing
  • Fish feeding
  • Fish ponds Hiking trail
  • Picnic/playground area
  • Birdwatching
  • Photography
  • Hiking/nature trails
  • Fish Culture Hall of Fame
  • National Fishery Artifacts and Records Center
  • Special events
  • Gift shop
  • Fishing in Spearfish Creek
  • Replica Fish Car Exhibit
  • Yellowstone Boat

Come join the hatchery staff and volunteers for year-round festivities and celebrations! D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives hosts an array of public events, including:

  • December Holiday Celebration
  • Spearfish Holiday Enchantment
  • National Fish Culture Hall of Fame
  • Induction Ceremonies
  • D.C. Booth Day
  • National Fishing Week
  • Family Creek Fair
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: June 19, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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