Author Topic: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery  (Read 16589 times)

wshawkins

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Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« on: June 23, 2012, 08:39:15 AM »
I stopped by for a visit and took a tour to the Historic Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery.  The Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery is a beautiful place to visit and has probably the best picnic spot in the Eastern Sierra.  Defiantly worth a visit if you're in the area.






History of Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery



When the proposal to construct a new fish hatchery was first discussed in the early 1900s, it created tremendous competition between several locations.  Among sites that were to be considered were Tuttle Creek west of Lone Pine, Bishop Creek west of Bishop, Oak Creek west of Independence, and even a possible site in San Bernardino County.  Oak Creek was chosen the best location because of the clarity of the water and cold temperature was better suited for fish production.


Building the Hatchery 1916



Building the Hatchery 1916



Construction was started in late March of 1916 with the goal of completing the project in time to receive eggs in the spring of 1917.  The building was designed by a team of six men led by Charles Dean of the State Department of Engineering.  Fish and Game Commissioner M. J. Connell instructed the team, "To design a building that would match the mountains, would last forever, and would be a showplace for all time." This created a one-of-a-kind showplace.


Hatchery almost completed 1917



The hatchery building was constructed of native granite collected within a quarter of a mile of the site. The walls are two to three feet thick.  None of the stones used in construction were cut, but were "sorted to fit."  The roof is red Spanish tile made in Lincoln, California from red clay found at that location.  The interior is finished with Oregon ash.  A gardener brought in from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco landscaped the grounds of the hatchery.  Approximately 3,500 tons of boulders used in the walls were guaranteed not to "crumble until the mountains shall fall."


The thick walls of the building



The Mt Whitney Fish Hatchery was the largest and best equipped fish hatchery in California at that time. It had a yearly capacity of 2,000,000 fry." The first trout hatched in 1917 were eggs collected at Rae Lakes.  The eggs were transported from the collecting station at Rae Lakes via Baxter Pass by mule train to the hatchery.  The spawning season of 1918 saw the first collection of golden trout eggs from the Cottonwood Lakes.


Hatchery Fish Truck 1918



Mt Whitney Hatchery 1926



Mt Whitney Hatchery 2012



Fire then Flooding


After surviving the 55,000 acre wild fire that stopped just yards away from the Hatchery in July 2007, July 2008 brought a heavy thunderstorm on the burned areas bringing a wall of mud and ash down the Sierra into Oak Creek.  The mud flow went through the hatchery site.  A four foot layer of mud and debris was left throughout the grounds of the hatchery.  Add in budget cuts, the Hatchery looked like it would be another footnote in the history books.


The fire from July 2007


Fighting the fire near the Hatchery July 2007



The hatchery was once renowned for the perfect waters for fish husbandry, cold and clear from the Sierra Nevada rushing down Oak Creek.  The fire and flood may have destroyed that perfect water system. The trees that shadowed and cooled the creek water were lost in the fire. 


Flood and Mudslide July 2008



Flood and Mudslide July 2008



Flood and Mudslide July 2008



Today and the Future


Within a year with the help of The Friends of the Hatchery, donations of cash and equipment from the public, with many volunteers and thousands of hours of labor, the new hatchery is up and running and hatching the first production of young trout.  The restoration efforts at the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery have allowed the Interpretive Center and Display Pond to reopen. The goal today of Mt Whitney Fish Hatchery is to continue as a working hatchery and preserve the historical significance of the hatchery facility and its place in history. 


Interpretive Center



Mt Whitney Hatchery 2012



DFG is again experimenting with raising small fry, literally testing the waters to see if they are still optimal for raising trout. The first batch of trout to come out of the hatchery post-fire was planted in Diaz Lake for the 2010 Early Southern Inyo Opener. 


Fish Raceways from Tour



Fish Pond



Will jump for food


However, the future of full-scale hatchery production still remains uncertain.  The Friends of Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery would like a private hatchery operator to take over fish production here.  A significant investment would have to be made in water supply and of course some hurdles within the DFG.


Mt Whitney Hatchery in Winter



Mt Whitney Hatchery



The hatchery is run by volunteers now.  Over 40 volunteers who donate their time and effort to keep this hatchery open to the public.  There are no paid employees.


Mt Whitney Hatchery



When I mentioned to them I would like to do a small story on the hatchery, they eagerly provided most of the pictures for this post.  Only pictures I took were on the tour of the facilities.  So a big thanks to the Friends of Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery and Bruce Ivey, Director of the facility for the nice pictures and a great tour of their facilities! 


Beautiful Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery



If you're in the area, be sure to stop on by.  Real interesting tour and also very kid friendly.


Here is the link to their site for more information and more pictures.
http://mtwhitneyfishhatchery.org/
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

Creek Dude

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2012, 09:40:08 AM »
 :goodpost:  Thanks, Hawkins!!  That's a great post.  I haven't been there for years...need to take the kids there on our way up there this year.  Are the trout in the fish pond still huge?

Another hurdle they had in the past was whirling disease, didn't they?  I can't remember if it was Mt. Whitney, Fish Springs, or some other hatchery in the area that had it.

 :thanks:  :clap:
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Gary C.

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2012, 10:42:33 AM »
I have been to the hatchery twice in the last two months to show it to other friends and can't say enough about how fortunate it is that the non profit group has taken it over. They are doing a great job and the volunteers seem very dedicated.


All but one or two of the raceways have been removed and I was told that the fry in the remaining races are just for educational purposes. At the far end of this room they have built another room that is used for a wildlife exhibit.

I would highly recommend anyone that hasn't been there recently stop and see everything that is being done there.

Gary C.

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2012, 10:46:42 AM »
Creek Dude, the brooders are still in the pond and waiting for you kids to throw them some food. They still have the quarter vending machines but they also sell the feed inside the giftshop/hatchery. I think the bag from inside is simpler and cheaper.

wshawkins

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2012, 11:09:37 AM »
Yes, Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery was shut down in the mid 1980ís because of whirling disease in the its water supply from the north fork of Oak Creek that flows down the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada into the Owens Valley.

Whirling disease, which is harmless to humans, causes degeneration of cartilage and brain tissue in fish, prompting some to swim, or whirl in circles.  If you fish a lot you should see this at some lakes today.

Its shutdown was a major crisis at that time.  2 million fingerlings and 350,000 catchable-size fish were destroyed that year alone.

Then, over the next four years, the creek was fish-killed with the chemical formula rotenone three times, and the facilities at Mt. Whitney and the Black Rock rearing ponds eight miles away, where Mt. Whitney's eggs are sent to hatch, were treated thoroughly with chlorine.

There has been no sign of whirling disease in the hatchery since far as I know.
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

wshawkins

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2012, 11:11:37 AM »
I spotted a couple of brooders in the pond that had to be in the 4-5 lb range at minimum!
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

RockNCreekGirl

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2012, 04:36:36 PM »
I love it here and we always like to stop on the way home for a picnic lunch.  I grew up spending my summers at SNARL and watching the hatchlings grow with my great aunt and uncle who were the caretakers.  So the hatchery's always have a special place for me and takes me back to my younger years in the sierra's watching the process of raising trout.  The food you feed the broaders is actually Purina Trout Chow...which is now called Aquamax...and is still made by Purina.  I like the Purina Trout Chow name better  :)
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2dtrails

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2012, 08:20:06 PM »
Great report wshawkins!  I was heading home from mammoth the day of the floods.  We got stopped just outside of Big Pine because of the wall of mud on the 395.  I made the stop at the hatchery last month on the way home, it is an amazing place and worth checking out.  Thanks for the report.

wshawkins

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2012, 12:39:16 PM »
More pictures and little more recent history of the fast-moving Inyo Complex Wildland Fire that almost burned down the town of Independence, the historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery and that nearly killed nine firefighters.  The Fire was started by lightning strikes on July 6th, 2007.

The fire also burned down the Ashworth Ranch and almost got the Bright Ranch, both located up Oak Creek just north from the hatchery. Nine firemen took shelter from the inferno in a pond at the Ashworth Ranch, desperately covering themselves with emergency fire blankets as the fire roars all around them.

At the height of their despair, knowing they were about to lose the hatchery and fearful for their own lives, the remaining fire fighters readied to save themselves in the pond.  Suddenly an old Lockheed P2V Neptune, the largest of the twin-engine "Borate Bombers", skirted a fire tornado to the south of Oak Creek and dropped 2700 gallons of ammonium fire suppressant along the back of the hatchery, saving it and quelling the flames around the trapped crews and the Hatchery.


Fire from 395



Water from the Hatchery Pond



From the Hatchery




Fire Tornado




The Lockheed P2V Neptune that saved Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery and the firefighters trapped at the Ashworth Ranch
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

saudust

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2012, 12:49:23 PM »
Great shot of the fire tornado, wshawkins.  Good report of the events, too.  What a close call they had, all of them, firefighters and hatchery.  Thanks for the pictures.  Really amazing!
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bstolton

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2012, 01:27:59 PM »
Stopped there last year for the first time and really enjoyed the visit and the history.True survivor. The fish in the pond are of the hook, no pun intended. Plan on stopping there next month to show my grandson the fish, he is going to be amazed. He is used to seeing the gold fish in grammas pond. If you stop to visit the hatchery, please donate.
gone fishn, hope to be catchn soon !

wshawkins

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2012, 08:41:30 AM »
Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery was restored completely by volunteers and donations.  Obvious the whole community of Independence must have got behind this effort to clean-up and restore the hatchery grounds and buildings, as they look better than ever!

Any purchase from their small store (books, fish food, and art) goes back into the operation and upkeep to preserve these facilities.  Of course, any donations are gladly accepted, so future generations can visit and appreciate this grand institution.  Stop by if you get the chance.


http://mtwhitneyfishhatchery.org/



"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

Claremont Dude

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2012, 12:13:18 PM »
Like RockNCreekGirl I have great memories of stopping here as a kid to picnic with my parents. On my most recent trip up to Rock Creek with my buddy this past August we stopped to take some pictures. My buddy had never been there. It was the first time I have been back since the fire & flood. I was happy to see that the volunteers have brought the hatchery back to life. We took some pictures (I've posted a few of mine below), but unfortunately we were there on a Tuesday and the hatchery was closed for the tour.














"Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."- Henry David Thoreau

wshawkins

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Re: Historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2012, 07:23:55 AM »
Claremont Dude, just noticed your last two pictures.  That water main pipe just about gone!   :chrisw:
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."