The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

View other hatcheries in the northeast series!

Picture this: You're driving down the interstate, cruise control on, windows down, stereo blasting. It's a perfect 80 degrees, you don't have to work, and you've got the whole day ahead of you. You pull off the road and a beautiful vista lies in front of you. A pond sparkles in the sunshine, birds are chirping happily in the trees, and best of's peaceful. You pop the trunk and pull out a fishing pole, that set of watercolors you've been meaning to use, your best pair of broken-in hiking boots, and breathe in the fresh summer air. But wait, where the heck are you?  

Is it a national park? If we were going on overall vibes, the answer might be yes.  

Is it a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
? Getting warmer, but think more fins.  

Is it one of the nation's most underrated outdoor destinations...national fish hatcheries? Ding ding ding! We have a winner!  

The National Fish Hatchery System has been improving recreational fishing and restoring aquatic species since 1872 (uhhhh, yeah that makes them 150 years old!) and yet, lots of folks might not even know that their grounds are often open to the public and entry is FREE! The wonderful thing about fish hatcheries is that they offer something for everyone in your more disgruntled sighs from the backseat! 

Each hatchery highlighted in our road trip series is over 100 years old and has four sections of information: 

🚙 Trip Highlights: This is where you'll find hatchery activity suggestions for different folks in your group. These aren't full lists, just some of the things we think are pretty cool. Before you hit the road, be sure to check each hatchery's web page for additional activities and we recommend calling ahead to check on their opening status and any possible closures. We've also got some good info on how and where to purchase a fishing license, if that's on your activity itinerary!

🚧 Detour: Is it really a road trip if you only go to one place? Well, yeah, but where's the fun in that? We've provided each hatchery with a nearby pit stop suggestion for the free spirits among us. (Full disclosure, besties: We haven't actually been to any of these spots and are in no way promoting them over other destinations, they just sound fun. Please do your research beforehand to check on fees, accessibility, travel restrictions, etc!)

🎶 Featured Song: One of the best parts of a road trip is the playlist. You probably have your own set of cool tunes, but we couldn't resist including some other suggestions for your listening pleasure!

🧭 Road Map: Ok, it's not actually a real map, but it's a fun, colorful graphic you can share online or print out for your trip! 

Buckle those seatbelts, we’re taking you on a ride through some of the nation’s oldest hatcheries that you’ll definitely want to add to your summer road trip itineraries and they are free to the public. First up in the series, hatcheries over 100 years old in the northeast! 

Pro tip: Nashua is THE PLACE to bring a yummy packed lunch. Make your first stop to check out their fabulous pollinator garden, and then wander to one of the picnic tables scattered throughout the property. See how many pollinators you can spot while lunching and munching!

Nashua National Fish Hatchery - New Hampshire

The next time you go fishing, you might just catch a fish that was raised at the Nashua National Fish Hatchery. Since 1898, Nashua has been raising various trout species to support recreational fishing. Other Nashua programs support species restoration, including the endangered Maine Atlantic salmon, at-risk species like the round whitefish, and American shad to the Merrimack river and the coastal rivers of New Hampshire.

🚙 Trip Highlights

Nashua isn't open for fishing, but you can catch the ones they stock in nearby waterways to support recreational angling throughout New Hampshire. They provide great species, including American shad, Atlantic salmon, landlocked Atlantic salmon, round whitefish, and occasionally brook trout!
Nashua's hatchery grounds are open daily and hikers will be pumped to learn that there is a newly constructed hiking trail that travels through the woods and loops around their pond. Level up your hike by checking out the tree identification sign at the trail entrance and seeing how many you can spot on your hike. (Pro tip: take a photo of the tree ID sign before you head out and then amaze your friends and family with how you basically became an arborist overnight!) 
Two words: pollinator garden. In the early fall of 2015, Nashua started tending several pollinator gardens to help increase and sustain their local pollinators like ruby-throated hummingbirds, bumblebees, monarch butterflies, and the hummingbird moth. Their garden is planted with wild bergamot, black-eyed susan, purple coneflower, lance leaf coreopsis, blanket flower, and golden alexanders. Relax and bask in the beauty of nature as you watch these critters work their magic.

If you're the person in the group who loves to blurt out random bits of information, then here's a little Nashua knowledge for your noggin': It's considered to be the only federal hatchery with an active stoplight on the property. (Fun fact: if you can't think of a single person in your group who loves blurting out random information...then it's probably you. Every group has one, just embrace it!)

Have you ever tried to photograph a hummingbird or hummingbird moth?? We can get amazing photos of motionless flowers all day long, but any attempt to snap a fiercely fluttering ball of fluff is met with disappointment. Nashua is a perfect place to spot these types of critters and improve your photography techniques or simply wow everyone around you with your already stellar skills.

🚧 Detour

There are probably a ton of fun and weird things to see near Nashua, New Hampshire. However, if we had to choose (and we kind of do since we're writing this), we would time our trip to coincide with the UFO festival in Exeter. The town is only a 45-minute drive from Nashua and is apparently the epicenter of an unidentified flying object sighting in the 1960s. 

🎶 Featured Song

The classic hit “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane is a must for any road trip! (This oldie slaps, don’t act like you don’t sing along!)

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to Nashua National Fish Hatchery, please call ahead for visitor hours and check out their website for even more to do during your visit.  You can also download a high resolution PDF of the map!

Story Tags

Connecting people with nature
Fish hatcheries
Freshwater fish

Recreational Activities