The hatchery has 3.3 miles of graveled trails made up of two loops, the Hatchery Loop and the River Loop. The River Loop incorporates the Wetlands Trail and the Lewis Clark Trail. The Hatchery Loop provides access to the hatchery visitor center and aquarium as well as the salmon run.
Wetlands Trail Loop
The path you are about to take will enable you to experience a wetland. This wetland was first brought to you compliments of a beaver that dammed the effluent stream feeding from the hatchery. With the completion of the dam, a wetlands was formed which provided homes to a wide variety of birds, mammals, fish, plants, and insects. As you move along the path, take frequent stops to observe your surroundings. Allow yourself to become relaxed and listen to the sounds of nature. Along the route are interpretive signs that will assist you with wildlife identification. Benches and a waterfowl observation blind have been provided for your enjoyment.
The water in this wetlands flows from the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery. The wetlands serve as a natural filter to purify hatchery effluent water. Organic nutrients from fish waste provide the lush growth you observe in the surrounding trees and vegetation. Plankton, the microscopic plants and animals, also thrive on the nutrients and provide the start of the food chain.
Throughout the spring and summer months the wetlands give birth to broods of wood ducks and Canada geese. The great blue heron will most likely be seen fishing along the water’s edge for an unsuspecting trout. This wetland is the home of several mammals as well. White-tailed deer, mink, raccoon, muskrat, skunk, and of course, beaver, are some of the animals you may see along the trail.
In the fall, the water flow from the hatchery attracts migrating salmon which are on a spawning run from Lake Oahe. Visitors on the trail in October may be fortunate enough to witness 10 pound salmon leaping the log diversions placed in the narrow constrictions along the stream.
In the winter months the wetlands remains open from the water heated at the hatchery for fish production. The open water provides a late winter refuge for migrating ducks and geese which in turn attract bald eagles. The waterfowl observation blind will give you an opportunity to watch ducks and geese by the hundreds as they stage here on their journey south.