Visiting the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
When I’m on a road trip my eyes are always scanning billboards and signs to see if there are any interesting places to stop. Recently, I spent a weekend in Bishop and while on Highway 395 I was scanning as usual when I saw a colorful sign for the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery. It piqued my curiosity and I made a mental note to find out what it was all about. A quick Google search confirmed it was definitely something up my alley and I made sure to stop by on my way home.
Located just outside the town of Independence in Inyo County the hatchery is over 100 years old. Built in 1917 by the California State Fish & Game Commission (now the California Department of Fish & Wildlife) it was to be a showpiece of the area and is constructed of locally sourced granite.
After it was built it was the largest hatchery in California and over the years produced innumerable Golden Trout (our state fish) to stock the lakes of the Sierra Nevada region.
Due to budget cuts the hatchery was set to close in 1996 but the community rallied, organizing the Friends of the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, and saved it. Unfortunately, in 2008 a devastating mudslide caused significant damage to the hatchery. The main structure remained intact but the pond was buried and the trout were killed. The hatchery’s future was once again uncertain but the community came together and repaired the damage.
Since the mudslide the facility no longer operates as a hatchery but it remains open to the public so that visitors may appreciate the beauty of the building and grounds, learn about the history of the area and understand the process behind fish breeding and hatching.
It’s a beautiful structure that serves as a striking example of Californian ingenuity in the early 20th century. I happened to visit on a gorgeous, cloudless day and wandering around the grounds felt like I was in a little slice of heaving. Plus, I got to see Golden Trout, which have happily returned to the facility.
When traveling Highway 395 the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery is definitely worth a stop. A jewel of the Eastern Sierras it’s a fascinating place to visit.