August 14, 2012

Where else can you see 15 pound rainbow trout up close?

English: Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) S...
Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Having seen a few fish hatcheries in Oregon in my time, it's hard to beat the Wizard Falls fish hatchery, located near Camp Sherman and the Metolius River, for its scenery, layout and size of fish. Right up there with that hatchery for scenery and fish size is the Oak Springs hatchery, which sits along the Deschutes River just outside the town of Maupin. It is a great place to show kids the different stages of fish life and how they are raised outside of the wild.

By road, you can't get to the hatchery by way of Maupin. Instead, visitors must take Oak Springs Road off Highway 197 between Tygh Valley and Maupin. This three mile road makes a somewhat dramatic descent along the wall of the Deschutes canyon and ends at the hatchery.
Rainbow Trout
Rainbow Trout (Photo credit: CircumerroStock)

The first set of hatchery ponds usually has various sizes of trout contained in them. Just a few feet from those ponds to the north is a small pond in a shady little spot, where larger trout dwell. In a couple of long, rectangular ponds further north and downhill, nearest the river, are brood ponds, where the largest trout are kept, many upwards of 15 pounds. These fish are maintained for reproduction purposes and, in some instances, used to stock lakes.
The water used in the ponds for fish rearing is supplied by gravity flow from several springs located along the canyon wall. This allows the ponds to maintain a constant temperature year around. The water is then released into the Deschutes River. This year, the hatchery completed a hydro-electric project, using those same springs to produce electricity for some of the hatchery's buildings.
Oak Springs was constructed in phases beginning in 1922 and ending in 1996. The facility is used for incubation and rearing of rainbow trout, summer steelhead and winter steelhead. It is also used for rainbow trout egg production. An estimated 6 million rainbow trout eggs, 500,000 rainbow trout fingerlings, 150,000 legal-size rainbow trout, 900,000 steelhead fingerlings and 110,000 steelhead smolts are produced annually at the hatchery.
Many of the eggs, fingerlings and steelhead smolts produced at this hatchery are shipped to other hatcheries throughout Oregon to mature further before they are released. Stocks from Oak Springs are used to stock a range of waters, from high mountain lakes to numerous reservoirs to tributaries feeding into the Willamette and Columbia River systems.

Deschutes River -- Oak Spring Rapid
Deschutes River -- Oak Spring Rapid (Photo credit: kw.traveller)

The hatchery also boasts good birdwatching during spring and summer. Birds viewed include finches, grosbeaks, wrens and woodpeckers. Kingfishers, herons and a nesting pair of golden eagle can be sighted seasonally.
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