It’s time to celebrate at D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery!

In 2021, the fish hatchery will turn 125 years old!

Celebrating this significant milestone provides not one, but three views – A glance into the past, a celebration of the present and a glimpse of the future. A look back helps to understand the how and why; enjoyment and accomplishment is experienced in the present day; and a glimpse into the future creates anticipation of things to come. At the hatchery, decades of reflections have lived in the swirling waters of the ponds and raceways creating a story that began over a century ago. Images of buildings, people, fish and a changing landscape have been reflected in the water, as chapters of its story unfolds page after page. The reflected images share foresight, hard work, dedication, political impacts, and existence in an ever changing world.

Honoring Our Past  |  Celebrating the Present | Building the Future

 

We’ve Got Lots to Celebrate!

Glancing into the Past
In 1890, South Dakota Senator Richard F. Pettigrew introduced a bill authorizing the US Fish Commission (USFC) to seek a hatchery site in the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska or Wyoming. Two years later Barton Evermann of the USFC found Spearfish to be a favorable location. Spring water flowed from the bottom of Ames Canyon and a rail line was located nearby. The Spearfish Fish Cultural Station was established in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1896. DeWitt Clinton Booth was the first superintendent of the facility. The hatchery building and the ice house were nearly complete with 17 fishponds ready to receive fish, when Supt. Booth received a telegram on June 20, 1899 from the assistant fish commissioner in Washington D.C., asking when the station would be ready to receive a shipment of trout eggs. Booth wired ‘the hatchery would be ready at any time’. The hatchery crew worked quickly to make egg trays, build supply troughs, install faucets and turn on the spring water. By July 29, 1899, one hundred thousand trout eggs were incubating, destined for the Spearfish hatchery. In 1903, the US Fish Commission became the US Bureau of Fisheries under the Department of Commerce and Labor. For a decade, the Bureau’s Spearfish station stocked almost 20 million rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout, lake trout, Arctic grayling and Atlantic salmon in South Dakota and surrounding states. During this time, Supt. Booth was assigned to assist Yellowstone National Park with fish culture projects. He spent 10 years working with Yellowstone. During this time cutthroat trout were introduced to the Spearfish Hatchery. The railroad, wagons and milk cans were instrumental in the stocking of fish into Black Hills ponds and lakes.. Fish culture techniques continued at the Spearfish National Fish Hatchery facility. Trout eggs were hatched, fingerlings raised, and fish were stocked throughout the area. A 1929 photograph captures 143 (milk) cans filled with large fingerlings loaded on distribution vehicles ready to depart from the hatchery. The era of fish transportation via truck was becoming more common and economical and began to replace the fish-car rail fleet by 1937. At this time, improved highways brought travelers and tourists to the Black Hills, as the area developed a reputation as a trout-fishing destination. Community involvement was evident in early years as it is today. Participation in a Swarm Days parade with a float promoting fishing, camping and hunting was documented in 1937. The Rod & Gun Club lobbied Congress to appropriate funds to expand the number of nursery ponds and improve the spring water supply at the hatchery.

The Issak Walton League, hosted a national convention in the Black Hills in 1937.The Weber Lifelike Fly Co. sent several flies to display at the convention. The display is currently located in the archival collection and will be an exhibit in the renovated fisheries museum. Progress, along with challenges, brought changes to the landscape of the Spearfish Hatchery. Earthen raceways gave way to stone walls and concrete. A four stall garage was erected in the 1950-60s. The springs began to dry up and water from the Spearfish Creek was utilized in the hatchery. An “auxiliary hatchery” was constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to provide a spring egg-hatching facility. This facility was used for a short time. It is now known as the Snappers Club, located in the Spearfish City Campground. The WPA also improved ponds, drainage channels and retaining walls with native stone from the Spearfish Hatchery grounds. A government reorganization in 1939/1940 merged the US Bureau of Fisheries
(Department of Commerce) with the Biological Survey (Department of Agriculture) to form the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of Interior). In part due to water quantity and quality issues, the Spearfish hatchery was transferred from the Division of Fish Hatcheries to the Division of Fishery Biology in 1941. Six years later the hatchery transferred back to the Division of Fish Hatcheries. With a renewed focus on fish production, Unit 2 (McNenny National Fish Hatchery) was built ten miles west of the Spearfish Hatchery. Fish production shifted to the McNenny substation, while the hatchery in Spearfish focused on growing larger fish to stock. The Diet Testing and Development Center with a mission of developing pellet feed for cold-water fish, was stationed at McNenny from 1966-1991. In 1967, the In-Service Training School for the US Fish and Wildlife service (USFW) was transferred to Spearfish. Students from around the nation moved to Spearfish for the year long course. Instruction included class work, research projects, and work assignments at the Spearfish and McNenny hatcheries. Major changes for the hatchery occurred when federal budget cuts forced the closure of the Spearfish Fisheries Complex in 1983. The McNenny substation was transferred to the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks. The third component of the complex, Ranch A, was transferred to the state of Wyoming. The USFWS temporarily ceased operations at the Spearfish National Fish Hatchery in 1983. The City of Spearfish was granted permission from the USFWS to use the Spearfish Hatchery as a tourist attraction, maintaining the old hatchery building which in 1982 had been converted into a fisheries history museum by USFWS. Arden Trandahl, serving first as the Spearfish Hatchery superintendent, then in a leadership role with the City of Spearfish, was instrumental in the transitional processes the hatchery was undergoing. Community volunteers formed the Booth Society, Inc. and operated a gift shop providing financial and preservation operations of the hatchery. People continued to visit the hatchery, as it continued as a popular tourist attraction for the area. In 1989 the USFW resumed operations in Spearfish under the leadership of Trandahl, but this time with a new mission. It was renamed the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives. It operated both as an active fish hatchery and an archival collection that collects, preserves and protects fisheries records and artifacts for educational, research and historical purposes. Congress funded a collection management facility which includes administrative offices, a concessions building, an underwater viewing area, and public restrooms. The incorporated Booth Society, Inc continued a strong presence in visitor service, educational outreach and promotions supporting the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives.

Local, regional, national and international visitors flocked to the hatchery to see the historic museum and Booth House, enjoy the underwater viewing area, and feed the fish. The hatchery continued to raise fingerlings in partnership with the SD Game Fish and Parks. An original fishing boat used on Yellowstone Lake during the early 1900s was brought onto the grounds. Fisheries Rail Car #3 was replicated by volunteer craftsmen under Project Leader Steve Brimm. The archive collection grew, soon boasting 160,000 records and 15,000 artifacts stored in the 10,000 square foot storage facility. In 2008, an economic impact study conducted by the Booth Society concluded that over 150,000 people visited the hatchery annually, generating an impact of recirculated dollars in business revenues of $2,141,759. The hatchery continued with its primary focus of fish culture projects including raising fingerlings for stocking purposes in the area. Visitors were able to experience an active hatchery, and at the same time, learn the story of fisheries. In 2013, the hatchery was confronted with another federal budgetary closure threat. The community rallied behind their beloved hatchery. The Booth Society worked diligently with community leaders and residents in a persuasive letter writing campaign and advocacy directed to the congressional delegation. The hatchery remained open. However staffing was reduced from 7 USFWS employees to only 1, the Superintendent. Plans to renovate exhibits in the Von Bayer Fisheries Museum were set aside. For the next several years, the hatchery under the direction of Supt. Carlos Martinez, has taken on new challenges, resulting in many improvements. There are currently 3 full time and 1 seasonal USFWS staff working at D.C. Booth. Fish are raised and stocked through federal contracts with the Ellsworth Military Base and with eight tribal reservations in Montana and South Dakota.

Celebrate Today
125 years old! It is time to celebrate!
Today the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives is thriving as an active fish hatchery, a growing archival collection and research center, as well as a popular family tourist attraction. Between 40,000 and 50,000 trout can be found at the hatchery at any given time. The primary purpose of the hatchery is raising brown and rainbow fingerling trout to an 8-10” stocking size. When visiting the grounds, trout can be found both in the raceways and in the ponds. In addition to raising trout, fish culture research projects are being undertaken by the USFWS biologists. Currently underway at the hatchery are mountain sucker and YY chromosome research projects. Visitors arriving at the hatchery are mesmerized by the fish they find in the underwater viewing area and swimming in the raceways and ponds. They are delighted to toss handfuls of fish food into the water and watch the trout splash through the water to devour the pelleted fish food. Individuals continue their visitor experience as they walk the pathways winding throughout the historic venues. Interpretive signs dot the landscape, each sharing a fisheries story through pictures and text. The signs provide self-guided tours to visitors between dawn and dusk 365 days a year. During the months May through September, the doors to the Fish Rail Car #3, the Booth House, the Ice House, and the Hector Von Bayer Museum of Fisheries are opened to visitors. Volunteer staff provide interpretive tours, sharing stories and historic information.

Stepping into the Von Bayer Museum of Fisheries, visitors are greeted with an architectural treat with wood arches stretching across the ceiling spanning the open space above the exhibits. Stories of fisheries and fish culture leap from the exhibits as visitors explore the museum. Models of the Yellowstone Boat and the Fish Rail Car #3 draw visitors for a closer look. Walking into the office of D.C. Booth, it seems as if D.C. might step around the corner, sit down at his desk and review hatchery paperwork. The most frequently visited venue is the replica Fish Rail Car #3 with 29,000 visitors annually. The Fish Rail Car gathers attention as visitors suddenly become aware of a train car that seemingly stopped in its tracks in the middle of a patch of green grass.The Fish Rail Car shares the story of how fish were transported across the nation between the years of 1870 and 1940. Stepping onto the Fish Car, visitors find themselves immersed in the Rail Car era, surrounded by milk cans and Fearnow pails, containers that held fish as they were transported to be stocked in lakes and ponds. Bunks for the crew are overhead. The Captain’s Quarters, with a private bunk, is located at one end of the Fish Car. At the other end is the kitchen. Typically, a Fish Rail Car traveled with a Captain, a cook, and three crew men. The Booth House, a Neocolonial Revival designed home, is located at the top of the hatchery canyon. It was built in 1904-05 for the superintendent of the hatchery and his family. While the house was being built, D.C. Booth, his wife Ruby and two children lived in the living quarters on the second floor of the hatchery building. The new house had both electricity and plumbing, which was advanced for the Spearfish area. Ruby had two requests of the architect, one was to install an oval window above the stairway on the west wall to provide light; the other was to build stairs into the corner of the kitchen so access to the upstairs was available without walking through the other part of the house. The Booth family lived in the house until D.C.’s retirement in 1933. Behind the Booth House, Ruby’s Garden provides an outdoor gathering space for activities, weddings, and hatchery events. The Northern Hills Master Gardeners help maintain the area, incorporating plants and flowers that were grown in the area in the early 1900s. A wooden boardwalk takes visitors to the Yellowstone Boat. The fishing boat was used in Yellowstone to harvest trout eggs during the time D.C. Booth and his crew were doing seasonal work there. In addition, stories of the Spearfish hatchery, as well as other USFWS hatcheries across the country are being recorded, documented, and archived in the National Fish & Aquatic Conservation Archives. The collection is stored in the Arden Trandahl Collection Management Building located near the center of the hatchery grounds. It presently houses 1.8 million archived records, along with 14,000 artifacts, all stored in a climate controlled archival storage. Requests for information from the archives are researched for educators, fisheries, and the general public by the archival team, led by April Gregory, curator. The open space of the hatchery grounds is shared with a variety of wildlife and birds. Rabbits, squirrels, muskrat, deer and bull snakes frequent the area sharing their space with the humans that venture into their environment. As the hatchery celebrates its 125th birthday, the fun, free, family attraction will be hosting educational, interactive events. The Booth Society, along the FWS staff, are coordinating activities to celebrate with the community and visitors. Details will be announced on their website as plans are made.

Glimpse Into the future
With the hatchery’s rich historic background, and an exciting celebration ongoing, what might a glimpse into the future hold? Looking to the future, the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives’ swirling waters with images and shadows that have anchored the hatchery will continue to share the stories of the waters and trout that inhibit them for years to come. FWS biologists continue fish culture research projects, expanding capabilities and infrastructure as they are able. Current projects such as the mountain sucker and YY brown trout will continue, while new studies are considered. Through the Booth Society’s involvement, the 11 acre facility is looking to expand through the purchase of 64 acres of land adjacent to the west. The land acquisition by the Booth Society will foremost protect the watershed and water supply of the hatchery, and prevent housing developments from building on the nearby land. With the additional land, many opportunities arise allowing the open space to be experienced and enjoyed by the general public. There are tentative plans for developing trails, providing educational and outdoor activities, and public access to the land. Currently, a management plan is being developed. Details of the plan will be made public as they are available. Renovation of the exhibits in the Hector Von Bayer Fisheries Museum is moving forward. This upgrade was being planned before the closure threat in 2013. At that time plans were set aside, as the hatchery first struggled to stay open, then maintain with limited staff. Hard work and dedication by the FWS staff, with support from the Booth Society, their non-profit friends group, is providing the renovations and upgrades to once again move forward. Through private donations and Booth Society support, the USFWS has been able to approve architectural plans and begin the process of renovation. Plans include improving security and safety, designing a floor plan that showcases storytelling displays and constructing exhibits that will share the national fisheries stories with visitors years into the future. During the hatchery’s 125 years, several commonalities weave through its story. These include strong community involvement, visitor educational opportunities, political impacts, visionary leadership, willingness to take on new challenges, and always, the waters of the ponds and raceways populated with fish. Strong leadership from managers, including D.C. Booth, Arden Trandahl, Steve Brimm and currently Carlos Martinez, along with the unchanging mission of research and progress in Fish Culture has created an active and historic hatchery. The shadows of these men and others cast on the waters of the ponds and raceways as they walked the grounds, fed the fish, shared fisheries stories, and worked toward progressive visions, have created the hatchery we now visit. The images reflected in the waters of a changing landscape, building and removal of structures, movement of workers, and the fish that swim beneath the shadows are the story that we celebrate today.

Ways to Celebrate with Us!    |    Upcoming Events:

  • Mother’s Day
  • Booth Day
  • 2021 Beer Run

125 NEW Members for 125 years in 2021!

 

Help us reach our goal of 125 NEW members in 2021!

2021 memberships include: 10% discount in The Pond Shop, cup of fish food at each visit, and commemorative 2021 calendar.

Join now

shop or 125th Anniversary collection of gifts at The Pond Shop!

125th Anniversary Gold Coin

 

$15.00 

125th Anniversary Chocolates

Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate in metal commemorative tin.

$11.00 

125th Anniversary Booth House Ornament

 

$19.99 

125th Anniversary 'Booth House Winter' Print by Jon Crane

5×7 Notecard w/ Envelope | $3.00 

7×9 Frameable Print | $12.50

125th Anniversary 'Advice from the Fish Hatchery' Poster

 

11×16 | $14.99 

125th Anniversary Edition of Spearfish Hatchery Book

 

$21.99 

Bird Book

6×6 inch. 16 page glossy birds book. Photographed at DCBooth by Shelly Burkhard.

$5.00

Coming soon!

Special D.C. Booth 125th Anniversary Books!

America's Bountiful Waters

America’s Bountiful Waters: 150 Years of Fisheries Conservation and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Featuring D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery!

By Craig Springer

Fish and Aquatic Conservation (FAC) in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is the direct descendant of the U.S. Fish Commission, founded in 1871. In 2021, FAC marks its 150th anniversary, the oldest conservation agency in history. To commemorate this milestone, U.S. F&W will publish a compelling history to celebrate the broad-thinking scientists, writers, and artists who led us through the gilded age of American ichthyology into the present day.

Coming SPRING 2021!

"Meet me at the Hatchery" book

Hardcover Children’s Book!

Illustrated by Bill Feterl

Coming SPRING 2021!

Happy Birthday D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery!