Since 1871 the National Fish Hatchery system has been at work improving recreational fishing and restoring aquatic species that are in decline, at risk, and are important to the health of our aquatic systems. Across the country, the network of National Fish Hatcheries work with states and tribes to conserve, restore and enhance the fish and aquatic resources of America for future generation.
Construction began at Willard National Fish Hatchery in 1951. We were authorized by an amendment to the Mitchell Act to mitigate for fisheries lost due to the construction and operation of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Early reports available regarding the Willard hatchery indicate that it was planned and constructed as a fall Chinook salmon production facility.
Today Willard produces 2 million fall Chinook salmon annually that are released into the Little White Salmon River. The hatchery also raises up to 1.2 million coho salmon annually in partnership with the Yakama Nation. These fish are transferred to various acclimation sites in north central Washington where they are released.
Since 1871, National Fish Hatcheries have been applying science-based approaches to conservation challenges. We work with our partners and engage the public to conserve, restore, and enhance fish and other aquatic resources for the continuing benefit of the American people. Conservation is at the heart of what we do, and we recognize that we do this work for the American people–both the present generation who benefit today and future generations who will inherit our legacy of conserving America’s aquatic resources.
The hatchery is located above an impassable natural waterfall, Spirit Falls, and migrating adult salmon are unable to reach the facility. After the hatchery was completed in 1951, coho salmon returned to Drano Lake and the Little White Salmon River as a result of a successful Willard production program. Coho were produced at Willard between 1954 and 2004. Mitchell Act budget reductions led to the proposed closure of Willard National Fish Hatchery in 2004, a year that marked the last release of coho salmon from the facility. A cost share agreement between the Yakama Nation and the Service led to a renewed production program at Willard; however, coho salmon are no longer released into the Little White Salmon River. Coho produced at Willard originate from a locally adapted stock from the Wenatchee and Methow river watersheds in north central Washington. Eggs are shipped to Willard to initiate production and pre-smolts reared at Willard are transferred back to their native watersheds to assist the Yakama Nation reintroduction program.
Other Facilities in this 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!