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Stories from the valley

Got Fish? Why the Nimbus Fish Hatchery is a must see

They come in droves around the holidays! Not your relatives, but salmon, big, beautiful salmon. Chinook salmon are returning to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery and here are four reasons why you need to hit the hatchery.

Its Free…Its Fun

The Nimbus Fish Hatchery, nestled on the American River, is open every day except for Christmas. Admission is free.

“I think people don’t’ even realize that a hatchery is a place that you can or would want to come and visit with your family, even if you are not a fish person,” explained Laura Drath, Fish and Wildlife expert at the hatchery.

The returning salmon run continues through mid-December. It’s quite a sight to see.

Nature at it’s finest

“Having a wildlife migration right here in our backyard, you don’t have to go anywhere to see this, you just walk down to the river and there they are doing their thing,” said Drath.

Four million salmon are produced by the hatchery annually. The returning fish are 3-4 years old, making their remarkable return after time in the ocean. The large fish, they weigh on average 15 to 50 lb. (the record is a 62 pounder!) swim up the fish ladder, and into the holding pool.

“They put on a show, they are impressive, they can jump right out of the pool!” detailed Drath.

Feeding Frenzy

In addition to salmon, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery raises 430,000 steelhead trout. These fish are currently in the raceways, long ponds, where in the steelhead’s case, they remain for a year until they are ready to transition into the wild. You can feed these fish! Fish food is given out at along the raceways at the top of every hour for visitors take and toss to eagerly awaiting fish.

Playground for young and old

This place gets interactive too. A playground, complete with a giant fish to hide inside, welcomes kids. The River Discovery Trail, a quarter-mile river trail that hugs the American River, is great for walking and nature gazing (spawning salmon, resident and migrating birds and deer pepper the landscape).
The visitor center is a one-stop shop for all things interactive, and as Drath puts it, this is hands on learning at its finest.

“Staff naturalists can’t help themselves, they bring in feathers, otter pelt, bones, things you can touch and learn about.”