The Great American Hatchery Road Trip

Written By

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. 

White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery annually produces 6-8 million rainbow trout eggs that eventually turn into little cutie juvenile rainbow trout like the one shown above!

White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery - West Virginia

White Sulphur Springs was established in 1900 to produce fish for the American public. They now produce six to eight million rainbow trout eggs annually for the National Broodstock Program! The eggs go to federal, state, and tribal hatcheries to produce trout that support recreational fishing. The hatchery also does propagation and restoration work for native crayfish, freshwater mussels, and candy darters!

🚙 Trip Highlights

If you want to catch some stellar rainbow trout, you’ll need to plan your trip around one of the hatchery’s annual fishing events! Kids and seniors can participate in the annual fishing derby and they have a veterans fishing event too! Check the hatchery’s web page or Facebook page to find info on upcoming events.
Lace up those shoes and hit the trails! The hatchery has a couple of nice, ADA accessible trails, and you can venture out to the nearby mountainside trails if you have some energy left after you leave!
White Sulphur Springs has a collection of pollinator plots that are an animal lover’s paradise! In addition to pollinators, visitors can occasionally come across deer, bears, turtles, and toads!
Free hatchery tours are available to the public Monday through Friday from 8am to 3pm. Here’s your chance to get the scoop on the hatchery’s history, which is quite long considering they opened in 1900!
If you have any musicians in your group, be sure to plan your trip around the hatchery’s annual Freshwater Folk Festival that occurs the second Saturday in September! Who doesn’t love a family-friendly day of music, local crafts, educational activities, and tasty food??

🚧 Detour

The town of White Sulphur Springs is home to the Greenbrier Resort, the location of a former Cold War fallout bunker for members of Congress that’s open for tours! We’re pretty sure the history buff in your group would love this detour!

🎶 Featured Song

This one’s a trip to White Sulphur Springs is complete without belting out John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads.”

🧭 Road Map

Before you take off on your most excellent journey to White Sulphur 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!

Story Tags

Connecting people with nature
Education outreach
Fish hatcheries
Freshwater fish
Sport fishing