Seasons of Wildlife
Our hatchery is a popular place for birdwatching year-round, but especially in spring. From tiny calliope hummingbirds to huge great blue herons, the grounds provide diverse habitat for many species. White-headed woodpeckers nest in dead pines at the southern end of the property. Many species of swallows swoop over our settling ponds. In the thickets near Icicle Creek, a variety of birds are more easily heard than seen. Use our benches to sit quietly and wait for them to emerge. Pick up a copy of the Birding Bench Trail flyer at our signboards, which includes a map of the trails with bench locations marked as well as a local bird list.
April is when our 18 month-old spring Chinook salmon are released into Icicle Creek to make their way out to the Pacific Ocean. In May and June, spring Chinook released in previous years migrate back to the hatchery, where they rest in our adult holding ponds throughout the summer, awaiting August to spawn. Our youngest salmon are moved from the nursery building into the outside ponds in May.
Hot, dry weather is typical in summer, so watch for wildlife in and near the water. Early mornings are coolest. Deer choose hatchery grounds to give birth to their young, and are highly defensive of their fawns; so if you bring a dog with you, be sure it is on a leash at all times. In August, spawning Chinook salmon can be spotted in shallow, gravelly areas in Icicle Creek. This draws American bears to the river. Bears also enjoy hawthorn, chokecherry, and other fruits. Their scat is frequently found along the trails, and many visitors get a look at a bear, too.
In August, we spawn our adult spring Chinook salmon and place their eggs in incubation trays in our nursery building. The young salmon moved into outside raceways in May continue to grow throughout the summer. You may see our staff out feeding them and cleaning the raceways daily.
As leaf color changes, coho salmon return to Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River, spawning late into November. Bear sightings diminish as the weather gets colder and they prepare for hibernation. Canada geese fly overhead, their distinctive calls echoing through the valley. Frost and early snow accompany chillier nights.
Young salmon in the outside raceways get relief from summer's heat. But pressure from predators like great blue herons continues. Eggs fertilized in August are developing slowly in chilled water inside the nursery.
In winter, spring Chinook fingerlings survive in the outdoor raceways, sometimes under ice. Birds like ducks, kingfishers, and great blue herons are attracted to the hatchery fish. So are mammals like mink and river otters, which leave tracks and tunnels in the snow. Deer forage in Hatchery Park, bald eagles soar overhead, and the occasional bobcat or even cougar have been sighted in winter. Look for signs of activity like snowshoe hare tracks, middens of pine cone scales left by squirrels, or freshly chewed sticks or branches cut by an industrious beaver.
Leavenworth NFH currently raises spring Chinook salmon. Through a partnership with Yakama Nation Fisheries, coho salmon are also on station at certain times as well.
Prior Year Fish Returns:
- 2021: 3,337 spring Chinook returned to Leavenworth NFH
- 2020: 1,908 spring Chinook returned to Leavenworth NFH
- 2019: 1,189 spring Chinook returned to Leavenworth NFH
- 2018: 829 spring Chinook returned to Leavenworth NFH