Posted: September 29, 2013
Save the D. C. Booth Fish Hatchery for the Next Generation!
In August of this year, we had the privilege of accompanying my two year old grandson, Gunner, along with his parents, Arin and Brent Diedrich, to the D. C. Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, SD. The hatchery was at the top of Brent’s list of places to visit for the weekend, since he loved going there with his family as a child. He also knew that Gunner loves fish, so we were all looking forward to sharing the experience through a child’s eyes.
Upon arriving, we were greeted with cheerful volunteers working to “Save the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery.” Apparently, the hatchery had received word that due to budget constraints its doors were slated to close by October 1. The volunteers were helping visitors participate in a letter writing campaign to Congress asking them to reconsider closing this fish hatching icon and historical operation, museum and buildings.
No stranger to closing in the past, in 1980’s its doors closed until in 1984, the City of Spearfish went into agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to operate it. Then its name was changed from Spearfish National Fish Hatchery to D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery, after the first superintendent in charge of the fish hatching operation. In 1989, Congress appropriated funds to improve the facility by adding a museum, fish viewing area, public restrooms and concessions and once again took over operating the facility. The D.C. Booth Society helps with education, fundraising, volunteerism, etc. along the U.S. Fish Wildlife Society to carry out a new mission to "assemble, preserve, protect, make accessible to researchers, and interpret the history and technology of fish culture.”
Upon our visit, and learning of a new threat of closure we did our part and signed letters to be sent to our Congressional delegation. Fortunately, the closure has been postponed, but could be shut down as early as November 1, 2013. On behalf of my grandson, Gunner, I request anyone reading this to reach out to our Congressmen and request that they work to stop the closure.
We need to ensure that future generations benefit from visiting this facility, enjoying it, learning from it and preserving it. My grandson, while only two, was fascinated with the fish viewing area. His face lit up when he tossed the fish food into the water and the black spotted baby trout scrambled to get their fill. He smiled as the ducks swam across the pond and called out to them. Two year olds often get bored quickly, but we spent nearly two hours exploring there and he never fussed once, except when we were leaving. I hope that Gunner will have to opportunity to visit again when he’s a little older and can understand the educational aspects of the experience and I hope even more that he’ll be able to bring his own children back one day.
Following are a few facts about the historical fish hatchery:
- 144,000 visitors annually and 14,000 volunteer hours annually
- Bill proposed by SD Sen. S. F. Pettigrew to investigate possibility to open fish culture station in Black Hills for $500
- Spearfish chosen for its abundance of cold, fresh spring water and access to railroad and goods
- Construction began in 1896
- Congress appropriated funds to propagate, stock and establish trout populations in Black Hills and WY area
- First operated under U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
- D.C. Booth was appointed as the first fish hatchery superintendent in 1899. It was then called Spearfish National Fish Hatchery
- 16 fish holding ponds were constructed by 1889
- In 1905, a home was built for DC Booth and family. It is now used for formal parties and weddings, etc
- In 1901, Spearfish National Fish Hatchery constructed a substation to gather eggs from black spotted trout and to ship them to hatcheries outside of Spearfish.
- The eggs first traveled by railroad as far as they could then they went via wagon the rest of the way to their new home.
- Became headquarters for Western United States fish hatcheries
- Because of undependable water supplies in the 1940s McKenny, named after Judge McKenny, Fish Hatchery was built 12 miles west of Spearfish
- By 1949 the new hatchery was established and between the 2 they produced over a million trout fish a year
- The Spearfish center became a training academy for fish culture, fish nutrition and diet development.
- In the 1980s, the Spearfish and McKenny hatcheries were closed due to budget constraints. In 1984, the City of Spearfish went into agreement with USF&W service to operate the hatchery and it reopened it’s doors, changing it’s name to D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery after the first superintendent.
- In 1989, Congress appropriated funds to build a museum, underwater fish viewing area, public restrooms and concessions and US Fish & Wildlife Service resumed operations of facility. A new mission to "assemble, preserve, protect, make accessible to researchers, and interpret the history and technology of fish culture".