Carson National Fish Hatchery
Pacific Region

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Carson NFH collageWhen and Where to Visit...
Fish hatcheries are generally located in beautiful locations; the Carson National Fish Hatchery is no exception. Visitors can enjoy a picnic at a peaceful spot in the heart of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest; watch birds that include ducks, geese, osprey, and eagles; catch a glimps of the resident elk herd and see salmon returning to the place of their birth--in this case, to the hatcheries where they began their life two to five years earlier.

For more details about activities at the hatcheries or to schedule a group tour, please call the hatchery at 509-427-5905 or the Columbia Gorge Information and Education Office at 509-493-2934.

As the weather warms up and wildflowers brighten the Gorge, spring Chinook salmon return up the Columbia River, entering the Wind River on their journey back to Carson National Fish Hatchery. Others swim up the Little White Salmon River through Drano Lake to the Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery. Anglers flock to the mouth of the Wind River and to Drano Lake to try their luck at catching the 15 to 20 pound fish. All state fishing regulations apply; check with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife for latest season information (360-902-2500 for latest updates or 306-902-2200 for general information).


During the summer, the hatcheries are good places to enjoy the park-like settings and see wildlife along the nearby rivers. Picnic and visitor facilities are available, and there are public restrooms and parking for cars and recreational vehicles. The Carson Hatchery is located within the boundaries of the scenic Gifford Pinchot National Forest and has ample hiking and camping opportunities. The hatchery is also located on the main drive up the back side of Mt. St. Helen's National Volcanic Monument. Call the hatchery for visitor information at 509-427-5905. Spring Creek Hatchery releases the last of two groups of fall Chinook salmon smolts each May, but they have an excellent information center in the administrative office with brochures and programs available. Views from Spring Creek include a panoramic view of Mt. Hood, the city of Hood River, and the Columbia River Gorge. From the hatchery, visitors can also watch large numbers of windsurfers enjoying the brisk winds at this world-class windsurfing site. The other hatcheries have young fish in raceways year-round.

As the summer ends in late August and early September, tule fall Chinook salmon begin returning to Spring Creek Hatchery. Visitors can pick up a brochure at the parking area and take a self-guided tour through the hatchery or arrange group tours in advance. Each September, on the second or third Saturday, Spring Creek holds an Open House during which visitors can take hatchery tours, watch adult salmon being spawned in the state-of-the-art spawning facility, enjoy refreshments, and have fun with special activities for children. Call the hatchery at 509-493-1730 for details.
Upriver bright fall Chinook salmon begin returning to the Little White Salmon NFH in mid-October. These fish can be seen from the viewing deck at the hatchery and also in the underground holding tank viewing room. These salmon will be spawned from late-October through mid-November.

The strong Gorge winds and sometimes-harsh weather provide a dramatic setting for a visit to the hatcheries. January through early April, millions of fall Chinook salmon are marked with an adipose fin clip and coded wire tags before being released into the rivers leading to the Pacific Ocean. Visitors are welcome to watch the tagging inside the comfort of the trailers that are moved to each hatchery during tagging season. Winters are also the best time to watch the eagles soaring in the wind and at river's edge, feeding on salmon carcasses returned to the river after the spawning is finished.

Last updated: February 21, 2012
Carson National Fish Hatchery
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