We love free activities and here’s one you can do to relieve school doldrums. Only an hour and a half drive is the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery (WSFH). Located 21 miles north of Walhalla in Sumter National Forest, the hatchery is open to visitors daily. Allow about 1.5-2 hours for your tour which consists of the Hatchery Building, walking around the outdoor fish raceway and feeding the fish. After your tour, make a day of it and you can picnic in the shady Chattooga Picnic Area which is adjacent to the hatchery. There is a barrier-free fishing pier, accessible in the East Fork which runs through the hatchery grounds. If you are not up to fishing, you can choose to hike 2.5 miles to the main Chattooga River. Pick-up a map from the Hatchery office.
Brief History of the Hatchery
One of five fish hatcheries in South Carolina, it is operated by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. WSFH raises brown, brook and rainbow trout for stocking the public waters of South Carolina. Most of the trout are cultured to a catchable size of 9-12″ before they are released. Approximately 500,000 trout are produced and stocked annually by the WSFH. We especially enjoyed seeing the very large trout (5-15 pounds) kept at the Hatchery for public viewing.
How to tour the Hatchery
You may call ahead to arrange a guided tour, but the hatchery is open to walk-ins. Upon entering the Hatchery property, pick-up a brochure or print one from their website here. I suggest that you start your visit at the Hatchery building first before you visit the outdoor raceway sections. The Hatchery building has a video introduction about the site and the life cycle of a trout. Around the building are informative interpretative wall signs for your reading pleasure. Feel free to approach Hatchery employees who are used to being asked questions by curious visitors.
Their site recommends visiting the Hatchery in the fall, as this is the best time to view the full life cycle of the trout (specifically the eggs and sac fry). We visited early summer and it was still interesting. Inside the building, we found vats of thousands of small trout or fry (trout babies) no more than 2 inches long. Once they grow to 2 inches, they are brought outside to grow some more. Do not feed the fish fry as they are on a special diet!
Outside the Hatchery building are long fish raceways. The one with the covered shed is where the brood fish(parent fish) are stocked. Use your quarters here to purchase a fistful of fish food. The fish here are very active and kids get a kick out of all the attention they get with the fish pellets.
Note: Before going, take some quarters with you from home for fish food. These fish pellets are dispensed by machine and the only food you’re allowed to feed the fish with. After a couple of feeding rounds, we just challenged the kids to hunt around for fish pellets that fell on the ground.
Plan your own visit
Walhalla State Fish Hatchery
198 Fish Hatchery Road
Mountain Rest, SC 29664
Visit their website here.
Open 8 am – 4 pm daily.
Would your kids enjoy a trip to the Walhalla Fish Hatchery?