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Creston National Fish Hatchery
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Creston National Fish Hatchery

780 Creston Hatchery Road |Kalispell, Mt 59901
Hours: 9:00 am to 3:30 pm.| Phone: (406) 758-6868 | Email: Creston@fws.gov

About the hatchery

History | Species & Production | Stocking Reports | Public Information | Open / Close All

View of the Creston National Fish Hatchery Outdoor Education area. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS

View of the Creston National Fish Hatchery Outdoor Education area. Credit: Evie Bradley, USFWS.

About Us

Established in 1939, Creston NFH originally provided fingerling trout for Glacier National Park. Today, the hatchery has five main objectives:

  • Tribal Trust stockings for fishery management activities on the seven Tribal Reservations in Montana.
  • Stock fish for mitigation purposes under the Hungry Horse Dam Fishery Mitigation Plan.
  • Provide fish for native fish restoration activities.
  • Produce trout for cooperative fish management programs with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
  • Creston provides fish for science based educational programs, outreach events and for kids fishing ponds throughout NW Montana.

Recent upgrades to the original historical facility will enable the hatchery to remain viable far into the future. These have included the reconstruction of the Jessup Mill Pond Dam, a new hatchery water intake and spillway, construction of influent and effluent water treatment facilities, a raised mound septic system and pump station, renovation of the historic hatchery building, construction of a nature trail and streamside amphitheater, a new multi-use pavilion, and an Arbor Day Foundation Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom (See below).

Two other FWS programs are co-located at the hatchery, Partners for Fish & Wildlife and Montana Ecological Services. Together the three Service programs form the Creston Fish and Wildlife Center.

We welcome you to visit our hatchery, take a nature hike around the grounds and learn about the wonders of the aquatic world around us.


History »

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Historical images from the Creston National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

Historical images from the Creston National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

The site for Creston National Fish hatchery was selected in 1935 by officials of the National Park Service (NPS) after consultation with the various authorities on fish propagation and extensive study and investigation of other possible alternative sites. In December of 1935 on option was taken on the Jessup Mill Property for the NPS by "interested friends of the agency." Legislation authorizing the purchase was initiated in Congress on Sept. 26, 1936 and on January 17, 1939 the deed was transferred from the Dakota and Great Northern Townsite Company (a subsidiary of the Great Northern Railway) to the National Park Service. Construction on the Glacier Park Fish Hatchery was completed in 1940 with a labor force hired by the Works Progress Administration. In 1944 ownership of the hatchery was transferred from the NPS to the U.S. Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife.

Over the course of the last 75 years the Creston hatchery program has gone through several "eras" of change. In the early years the primary program was cutthroat trout broodstock development and production, with emphasis on the stocking of waters in Glacier National Park, a practice that was gradually reduced until 1971 when the stocking of Glacier NP ceased. For a brief period (1967-1971) the primary emphasis shifted to broodstock development and production of native westslope cutthroat trout, but the program was short-lived. In the early 70’s the fish production emphasis changed to stocking Montana’s seven Indian Reservations. For a decade, between 1983 and 1992, the station was also involved in the maintenance of various broodstocks and the production of Eagle Lake rainbow trout eggs for export to other hatcheries. In 1993, another era was ushered in with the advent of mitigation for Hungry Horse Dam and the rearing of kokanee salmon for Flathead Lake. Also associated with the Hungry Horse Dam Fishery Mitigation Plan was the development of a ground breaking bull trout broodstock propagation program. Creston was the first and only USFWS hatchery to rear the endangered bull trout.


Species & Production »

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An up close shot of a rainbow trout. Credit: USFWS.

An up close shot of a rainbow trout. Credit: USFWS.

Species
Creston National Fish Hatchery (NFH) currently raises two strains of rainbow trout; Eagle Lake and Arlee, and one strain of westslope cutthroat trout; Montana MO12. Annually Creston stocks approximately 750,000 rainbow and 250,000 westslope cutthroat trout, all within the State of Montana.

Rainbow trout eggs are delivered from the Ennis National Fish Hatchery. Creston NFH will incubate, hatch, and grow out approximately 300,000 Arlee strain and 550,000 Eagle Lakes strain rainbow trout fry for stocking goals. The westslope cutthroat trout eggs are received from the Washoe Park State Fish Hatchery in Anaconda MT. Creston will incubate, hatch, and grow out approximately 350,000 westslope cutthroat fry for stocking goals.


  • Despite the cold, snowy day, children help with stocking fish at DryBridge Pond in Kalispell, MT. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS.

    Despite the cold, snowy day, children help with stocking fish at DryBridge Pond in Kalispell, MT. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS.

  • Creston National Fish Hatchery staff use a fish pump to load rainbow trout into a distribution truck. Approximately 5,000 fish were taken to the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana for stocking. Credit: USFWS.

    Creston National Fish Hatchery staff use a fish pump to load rainbow trout into a distribution truck. Approximately 5,000 fish were taken to the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana for stocking. Credit: USFWS.

  • Creston National Fish Hatchery stocking fish at Duck Lake on the Blackfeet Reservation. Credit: USFWS

    Creston National Fish Hatchery stocking fish at Duck Lake on the Blackfeet Reservation. Credit: USFWS.

  • Creston National Fish Hatchery fish distribution in Duck Lake. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS

    Creston National Fish Hatchery fish distribution in Duck Lake. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS.

Fish Stocking
Currently Creston rears westslope cutthroat and rainbow trout for restoration, mitigation, tribal and cooperative fishery management programs, which fulfill Tribal, State, and Federal fishery management goals across Montana.

Production of these fish helps to replenish and restore sustainable trout populations, provide angling opportunities for recreational users, and enhance Montana native fish populations. Creston’s fish production translates into distribution of over 900,000 fish into Montana waters annually. As a result of the Creston NFH's stocking efforts annual economic benefits produce over 150,000 angler days with an estimated local economic benefit valued at approximately 10 million dollars.

As the aquatic habitat is challenged due to natural (drought, flood, habitat destruction) or human (over-harvest, pollution, habitat loss due to development and dam construction) influences, the reproduction of fish in the wild will decline.

Stocking of fish is just one of many management strategies used by fishery biologists to help replenish fish populations and ensure the survival of trout species for years to come.


Stocking Reports »


Public Information »

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  • Creston National Fish Hatchery Visitor Center Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS.

    Creston National Fish Hatchery Visitor Center Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS.

  • Creston National Fish Hatchery's Amphitheater by Mill Creek. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS.

    Creston National Fish Hatchery's Amphitheater by Mill Creek. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS.

  • Creston National Fish Hatchery's Annual Fish Fun Fair for Third Graders. Credit: USFWS

    Creston National Fish Hatchery's Annual Fish Fun Fair for Third Graders. Credit: USFWS

  • Creston National Fish Hatchery's Outdoor Classroom. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS

    Creston National Fish Hatchery's Outdoor Classroom. Credit: Evie Bradley / USFWS

Open to the public, Creston National Fish Hatchery is located in the beautiful Flathead Valley approximately 15 miles east of Kalispell and 36 miles south of Glacier National Park. The hatchery sits at the base of the Swan Mountain Range and is surrounded by prime agricultural farmland which provides a picturesque setting for raising fish and providing educational opportunities on the forested grounds.

Creston is open year round, seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Visitors are welcome to the hatchery for a close-up view of the fish production process. With over 5,000 visitors annually, the staff at the hatchery will gladly be availableto answer your questions. Self-guided tours of the hatchery are welcomed and encouraged. Visitors are invited to walk around the raceways where most of the larger trout are held, and visit the hatchery building where eggs and small fish are hatched and reared.

The hatchery invites you to hike the nature trail which was built with the help of two Eagle Scouts. Interpretive signs along the trail will guide you. There is a handicap accessible trail to an overlook of Mill Creek and the Hatchery below. An amphitheater by the creek is used as an outdoor classroom by local schools. Pick up a trail brochure and learn about the many wonders of nature here at the Creston hatchery. A beautiful multi-use pavilion is available for educational and family events. The pavilion is adjacent to an Arbor Day Foundation sponsored “Nature Explore!” outdoor classroom (See below). Also a wildlife viewing blind built with help from Ducks Unlimited, is available for your viewing pleasure.

Staff-guided tours are available upon advanced request and can be arranged by calling the office at (406) 758-6868. Educational programs and tours are provided for the public and school groups when scheduled in advance by calling the same number.

Numerous educational opportunities are available throughout the year for schools, clubs, civic groups and the general public.


Children playing at the Nature Explore Classroom. Credit: USFWS.

Children playing at the Nature Explore Classroom. Credit: USFWS.

Creston NFH Nature Explore
The Creston National Fish Hatchery (NFH) earned the national designation of a certified Nature Explore Classroom (NEC) from the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation in September 2012. The Creston NEC was designed by the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and funded through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Division of Education Outreach.

The grant was administered by the Arbor Day Foundation. The classroom was developed as a gateway to connect youth to the outdoors, educating youth using research-based principles for integrating nature into their daily learning.

Creston NFH is the first facility to receive the celebrated certification in the State of Montana. The Hatchery serves as a national outdoor classroom model for others throughout the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It joins a growing network of organizations that have created effective outdoor learning environments for children, allowing for idea-sharing, peer support, and continuous learning and development.

The Nature Explore Classroom offers interactive elements including musical instruments made of natural materials, climbing structures, wooden blocks, garden areas, and natural materials for building and creating art that give children important and inspiring nature experiences. While connecting children with nature, such unstructured play and activities are also shown to enhance concentration, develop creativity and problem-solving, relieve stress, and improve skills in many areas.

NEC strengthened existing partnerships between the Hatchery and other groups and was instrumental in developing new partnerships. Hatchery staff, many volunteers, donors, and the Montana Tribal Youth Conservation Corps, worked to transform this outdoor space into a multiple use area for educational and family engagement opportunities. The Forest Service, Glacier Sawing Team, local timber companies, and service organizations all provided assistance. This assistance included actions from helping to remove unsafe trees to providing cookies and ice cream to the YCC crew.

Creston NFH’s NEC is continuing to evolve with new partners like Ducks Unlimited, which is contributing a wildlife viewing area overlooking the pond. Many similar plans are in the works. This sustainable area gains community support almost daily.

The NEC provides an opportunity to use the area as a learning environment and can be used as an opportunity for cross-curriculum education. Whether just going for a nature walk or incorporating the experience into classroom curriculum, there are teachable moments for all ages and levels; all helping to better engage and educate future stewards of our fish and wildlife who will pass along their knowledge to others.

The Hatchery staff allows community programs, school groups, home school groups, volunteers, and others use of the area. They do ask that visitors call and schedule time in advance because of the popularity of the area.

For more images on the NEC and NEC installation visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eddiesfisheriesfws/sets/72157631561178627/


Creston Pollinator Garden

  • Children standing in front of the pollinators sign. Credit: USFWS.

    Children standing in front of the pollinators sign. Credit: USFWS.

  • Children posing for a photo at the Creston National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

    Children posing for a photo during the Fish Fun Fair at Creston National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS.

  • Butterfly. Credit: USFWS.

    Butterfly. Credit: USFWS.

  • Team Home Depot. Credit: USFWS.

    Team Home Depot. Credit: USFWS.

  • Team Home Depot. Credit: USFWS.

    Team Home Depot. Credit: USFWS.

  • Team Home Depot. Credit: USFWS.

    Team Home Depot. Credit: USFWS.

The Creston Hatchery Friends Group built and Home Depot Volunteers planted a new pollinator garden at the Hatchery in 2013. Creston also has a sign on the Nature Trail (one of 13) to reminder children and adults that “Pollinators” are in Peril along with the trail brochure that informs you how you can help by protecting and creating a diverse array of pollinators with a friendly habitat by choosing plants that flower at different timeof the growing season. During our school tours emphasis is place at this station to talk about what students know about pollinators.

The theme of the May 2013 Fish Fun Fair at the Hatchery was “Montana Pollinators.” Flathead Valley Area School participated by visiting the hatchery and entering art posters depicting the importance of pollinators in Montana.

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: April 21, 2014
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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