The best time to visit the hatchery is late-August through September when the adult salmon are returning. The salmon enter the hatchery by climbing up the fish ladder. Fish ladders are more like a staircase than a ladder, allowing a resting space between “rungs” for salmon making this journey. We open our fish ladder each year in late August.
Spawning takes place September 15-30. Each day fish are crowded into our Spawning Building for processing. Eggs are removed from the females and fertilized with milt from the males. Fertilized eggs are transferred to our Incubation Building where they spend the next several months, out of public viewing. In January, the salmon fry are put in our outdoor raceways, where once again you can see them while visiting the hatchery. The fry are fed multiple times a day.
A visit in March and April will provide a look inside Fish Marking Trailers. You can see several large white trailers around the hatchery that are working to mark the salmon fry in various ways. We adipose clip all of our fish, which distinguishes them as hatchery fish. A small percentage of our salmon receive a Coded Wire Tag, which is a small wire tag that is inserted into the snout of the fish. These tags tell us where our salmon go in the ocean and who is catching them. The last way we mark fish is a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag. This is a small micro-chip that is inserted into the body cavity of the fish. These tags are used for special studies and also help to tell us how many of our fish have returned over the dams.
We release our fish each spring in April directly into the Columbia River. We have no fish on station during the summer months, but our hatchery provides a beautiful walk along the river, and colorful wind surfing sails abound during these months.
We have a mile-long entrance road that provides a beautiful walk along the banks of the mighty Columbia River. At the hatchery proper, we offer picnic tables with a view of the river and Mt. Hood. The hatchery also has a short interpretive nature trail that winds you out even closer to the river, where there are spectacular views of the river, mountain and river recreationists; displaying their brightly colored sails.
Other Facilities in the Complex
We're part of the Columbia River Gorge National Fish Hatchery Complex, which includes the Carson, Eagle Creek, Little White Salmon, Spring Creek, Warm Springs, and Willard National Fish Hatcheries. Our complex propagates, releases, and transfers to partners over 25 million salmon to meet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's fisheries mitigation, restoration, and tribal trust responsibilities. Explore what each facility has to offer below.