The Eagle Creek hatchery was authorized under the Mitchell Act of May 1938, as amended in 1946. The purpose of the hatchery was to help compensate for anadromous (migrating to the ocean from fresh water) salmonid losses in the Columbia River basin due to mainstem Columbia River dams. The hatchery continues to operate under the original authorization, rearing and releasing anadromous salmon to support commercial, sport, ocean and river fisheries and to restore salmonids in watersheds in which they have become extinct.
Land for the hatchery was purchased from private ownership in 1953 with initial construction completed in September 1956, providing 39 raceways, adult facilities, multi-purpose hatchery building and storage facilities. Fish culture operations were initiated in November 1956 with fall Chinook and spring Chinook being brought to the hatchery. Additional construction in 1965 added 36 additional rearing raceways, with a pollution abatement system being added in l975.
Today the hatchery raises 1.5 million coho salmon and 90,000 winter steelhead annually. The hatchery releases 350,000 coho and the winter steelhead on site, while 500,000 coho transferred to the Yakama Nation and 550,000 coho are transferred to the Nez Perce Tribe to support coho restoration projects in their watersheds. During its history, the hatchery has also reared fall Chinook and spring Chinook salmon for release at the hatchery and local streams.
The hatchery water supply is exclusively Eagle Creek water with the ponds operating on a gravity flow system. A spring provides a small amount of warm water used for egg incubation during the winter months.