The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

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View other hatcheries in the southeast 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. 

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! If you're obsessed with adorable critters like this baby gopher tortoise, Warm Springs is the place for you!

Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery - Georgia

Established in 1899, Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery (not be to confused with the other Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery in Oregon!) consists of 56 acres with 39 ponds. The role of the hatchery is recovery and restoration of imperiled aquatic and terrestrial species. Examples of these species include alligator gar, gopher frogs, gopher tortoises, Gulf Coast striped bass, sicklefin redhorse, and others.  

🚙 Trip Highlights

Fishing is only allowed on hatchery grounds during special events, so if you’re an angling fanatic, we recommend timing your trip around one of those! If it doesn’t fit with your schedule, don’t fret. Warm Springs has a public aquarium, where you can get an up-close look at their cool critters.
Calling all geocache fans! The hatchery is one of the stops on the official Warm Springs Marvelous Geoquest! Head to the Meriwether County Visitor Information Center to pick up the official passport, grab your GPS, and start out on your epic quest to track down all 12 caches. While searching for the hatchery cache, take some time to check out their walking trail that provides a great view of the production ponds!
The hatchery’s outdoor display pools and wetland ponds are the perfect spot for catching glimpses of critters! If you’re in the mood for some exciting stuff, be on the lookout for alligators and carnivorous plants!
Fun fact: Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery was originally known as Cold Spring Station and was established by an act of Congress in 1898! When the nearby town was renamed as Warm Springs in 1924, the hatchery followed suit.
Warm Springs is already prepped for the artist in your group. Bring some crayons or colored pencils and then pop into the hatchery to pick up one of the educational coloring books. And just a reminder for anyone who needs it: COLORING BOOKS ARE NOT JUST FOR KIDS!

🚧 Detour

The town of Warm Springs was the personal home of Franklin Roosevelt beginning in 1926, where he hoped to seek therapeutic relief in the nearby thermal springs. Visitors can tour his home (known as the “Little White House”) and grounds, a perfect stop for the history buff in your group. 

🎶 Featured Song

If you’re not listening to Ray Charles’ “Georgia on my Mind” are you even really in Georgia?? 

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to Warm Springs 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!

A printable companion to the hatchery road trip guide. Full contents of the graphic are available at:

Story Tags

Connecting people with nature
Education outreach
Fish hatcheries
Sport fishing