The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

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View other hatcheries in the Central 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. 

If you spend your free time scrolling through real estate apps, then you'll love peeping the Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery manager's residence!

Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery - Mississippi

Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery, established in 1901, is a warmwater hatchery, meaning their water stays at a mad luxurious 75-85 degrees! They raise fish that are important to Mississippi, the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley, and the Gulf Coast, including alligator gar, lake sturgeon, Gulf Coast striped bass, Gulf Coast walleye, largemouth bass, and bluegill, just to name a few. Their staff also travel across the country like aquatic habitat superheroes, removing dams and installing culverts to improve habitat and increase aquatic passage. 

🚙 Trip Highlights

Fishing isn’t allowed on hatchery grounds most days, but folks can wander the property and view fish in the ponds and raceways! The hatchery occasionally hosts fishing rodeos, so be sure to check their web page or give them a shout if you want to check on timing and plan your trip around it!
Walk the 0.17 Pond Loop Trail and follow the interpretive signs to learn about the hatchery, its history, and what they produce or grow.  If you have energy left at the end of the day (we doubt you will!), head over to the Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center located approximately 8 miles from the hatchery for hiking, biking, and plenty of other outdoor opportunities.
Avian enthusiasts, this is the spot for you! Hang around on hatchery grounds for a chance to peep some mallard ducks, Canada geese, osprey, egrets, herons, various song birds, or mourning doves!
Love old homes and architecture? Swing by and look at the outside of the hatchery’s historic Manager’s Residence, seen in the image above. Fun fact: hatchery staff received a Cultural Resource Protection Award for their work restoring and maintaining this gorgeous building that’s on the National Register of Historic Places!
If you’re a painter/interior decorator/architect/house flipper and traveling with a history buff, check out the bullet above and join them at the historic Manager’s Residence. Set up an easel and paint or sketch your heart out, paying close attention to the building’s details and unique characteristics (who doesn’t love a turret?). 

🚧 Detour

Turns out Tupelo isn’t ONLY famous for its amazing hatchery, it also happens to be the birthplace of Elvis Presley! Visit the King of Rock and Roll’s childhood home or check out the small museum dedicated to his legacy. 

🎶 Featured Song

Elvis’ song “Promised Land” is great for ANY road trip, but especially one that includes a stop in Tupelo! 

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to Private John Allen 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
Education outreach
Fisheries management