D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives In South Dakota
- Date Visited: September 21, 2020
- Address: 423 Hatchery Cir, Spearfish, SD 57783
- Phone: (605) 642-7730
- Hours: Daily 9 AM-6 PM
- Price: Free
- Pets: Yes
The D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota was established in 1896. It is one of the oldest operating hatcheries in the country. It has also been known as the Spearfish Fisheries Center, Spearfish Fisheries Complex and the Spearfish National Fish Hatchery. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This is one of 70 fish hatcheries that were opened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the National Fish Hatchery System. It was created to propagate and stock trout in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. Today the hatchery serves as a living museum and when you visit there is a lot to take in.
The purpose of the National Fish & Aquatic Conservation Archives is to protect and preserve the nation’s fishery records and artifacts. Today the collection consists of over 2 million objects and documents from fish stations across the United States.
The Von Bayer Museum of Fish Culture preserves the history and heritage of the American fisheries workers. There are over 185,000 items in the museum making it the largest collection of fisheries artifacts in the country. Only a few are available for viewing though as the rest are in in storage. Did I mention it’s also located inside the original 1899 hatchery building.
The Booth House was built by D.C. Booth in 1905 as his family home. The house has been preserved and tours are offered to visitors to see the period furnishings and Booth Family memorabilia.
The Fisheries Railcar Exhibit features a reproduction of a railcar that was once used to transport fish across the country. Ten railcars like this one were used for 66 years to transport trout throughout the Black Hills. The railcar on display was constructed following the design of a model named Fish Car #3. It is also the only federal fisheries railcar exhibit in the country.
The Ice House located on the premises is a replica of the 1899 original. This is where blocks of ice were stored that were used to help keep fish from spoiling during transportation. It now serves as the Fish Culture Hall of Fame whose goal is to honor those who have made advances in the field of aquaculture.
U.S. Fisheries Boat #39, also called Yellowstone Boat #39, has been restored and placed on display at the hatchery. From 1901-1911 boats like this were used by Hatchery workers to collect trout eggs in Yellowstone National Park. They were then brought back to the hatcheries.
Doesn’t all of that sound cool?
Unfortunately when we visited the only building open was the Pond Gift Shop. Yes, Covid-19 strikes again. We did get to see all these buildings though and the railcar is very cool. The Yellowstone boat is a nice addition to the property as well. Despite not being able to see any of the little “museums” we still enjoyed our visit. We didn’t get to go inside most things, but still took our time strolling the grounds and reading all the informational plaques posted.
Besides being free another great aspect of this place is that you can bring your pets with you as long as they are on leash. A couple of workers I talked to said they had only seen one other cat there before so Everest got a lot of pets from the two girls.
There are a couple of nice bronze sculptures on the grounds by a local artist named Jim Maher. There are two nature trails on the boundaries of the hatchery you can take a stroll on. They will take you to a couple historic sites on the hatchery during your hike. These trails also provide you with some scenic views of the entire hatchery facility which spans a total of 10 acres. They also serve as firebreaks for the hatchery.
Did you know the Hatchery has scavenger hunts?
Yeah neither did I till I started doing research for this post, lol! There are apparently several that you can choose from and you can stop by the gift shop to grab them. Your kids will think they are just having fun, but secretly you know they’re learning something new as well. I love scavenger hunts and now I’m super disappointed I didn’t get to do one. I know I know, one day I might grow up (but lets hope not).
So now let’s finally talk about the real star of the hatchery, the trout.
- You can find 4 different species of trout at the Hatchery: Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat, and Brook.
- The average age of the fish here is 8!
- The water’s temp is 32 degrees in the winter and 60 degrees in the summer.
- The hatchery spawns and releases about 20,000 to 30,000 rainbow trout each year.
- Rumor is the oldest fish at the hatchery may be 15!
- Some of the trout weigh up to 15 pounds.
There are multiple ponds and raceways of trout in various stages of growth in the hatchery. If you head into the giftshop you can purchase some cheap fish food and feed some trout. After you throw that first little pellet in prepared to be swarmed by every trout in the area though. These fishies mean business when it comes to gobbling up some yummy morsels.
The most impressive area is the underwater viewing windows. The rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout swimming here call the hatchery home year-round. We had fun trying to determine the different species of trout as they swam by. This was by far Everest’s favorite part of the trip. I held him while he put his paws on the glass trying to catch himself an afternoon snack. It was a lot of fun to watch.
If you are anywhere near Spearfish, South Dakota I think it’s worth your while to stop here for a visit. There is a bunch to see and do and if the buildings are open you will have even more to explore. It’s something I think both kids and adults will enjoy. Plus, there’s not to many places to visit that are both free and pet friendly.