One of the very first ‘touristy stops’ that we did when we first started out on our RV adventures was the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. We happened to get there the first week in October, and found that the fall is a great time to visit the hatchery.
Built in 1909, the hatchery currently raises nearly 10 million salmon yearly. There are display ponds for both trout and sturgeon, plus there are many runs for the salmon that are bred onsite. We found that Oct. and Nov. are the very best times of the year to visit if you would like to witness the spawning (if you visit nearby Bonneville Dam during this time, you can also watch the salmon swim (jump) the fish ladder in their trek to get back to the hatchery). At the hatchery, we were treated to salmon swimming everywhere, including some areas that they were not supposed to be; we even got to watch a few jump way out of the water and over gates meant to keep them out of other ponds! If you visit during spawning, which occurs the last wk. of Oct. through the first wk. of Dec., you can view hatchery employees handling the fish during the spawning process.
The Hatchery’s grounds are beautifully kept, dotted with gorgeous flowerbeds, and feature 3 fish ponds that are open to the public. There are 2 trout ponds where you can purchase (take quarters!) fish pellets to feed the trout, and also a sturgeon pond. While the ponds are beautiful, and it is fun to feed the fish, the real attraction at the hatchery is the sturgeon viewing center, where you can meet Herman The Sturgeon up close and personal. Herman is over 60 years old, measures about 10 feet long, and weighs over 400 pounds! Personally, I thought that he was rather ugly (in an endearing sort of way!) 🙂 but also interesting since I don’t think I had seen a sturgeon before.
There is some great information that you can download off of the Bonneville Fish Hatchery website, including an interesting self-guided tour brochure that you can print off. We didn’t have it when we went, and it would have enhanced our visit had we known it was available. There are also other great stops nearby such as Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge Interpretive Center, and some family-friendly campgrounds nearby. The hatchery is a great educational experience; if you get the chance to visit, I would highly recommend it!