Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery History
"To design a building that would
match the mountains, would last forever, and be a showplace for all time".
M.J. Connell, Fish and Game Commissioner, 1915
The Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery towers above the Owens Valley as a
monument to the foresight and dedication of the citizens of
Independence and the California Department of Fish and Game. But when
the proposal to construct a new fish hatchery was discussed in the
early 1900's competition between several locations was tremendous.
However, it was the Oak Creek location that won out due to a forty-acre
parcel of land to be donated, guaranteed use of water from Oak Creek,
and temperature of the water best suited for fish production.
a meeting in Independence on Thursday, December 15, 1915 local citizens
held a meeting in the courthouse to raise $1500.00 to purchase a site
on Oak Creek. The entire amount was pledged and raised and the path was
set to obtain the site and gift it to the state. This gift of land, a
pledge by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors of $500 to construct a
road, and a commitment by the California Fish and Game Commission of
$20,000 to construct the hatchery all provided the means to begin the
A team of six men led by Charles Dean of the
State Department of Engineering designed the building. The guideline set forth
by M. J. Connell, Fish and Game Commissioner was "To design a building that
would match the mountains, would last forever, and would be a showplace for
all time". F. A. Shelby, Superintendent of Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery in
1917 stated, "This was to be the best equipped fish hatchery in California",
"it has a yearly capacity of 2,000,000 fry". The first trout hatched
in 1917 were from eggs collected at Rae Lakes and were transported via Baxter
Pass by mule train to the hatchery.
trout eggs from the Cottonwood Lakes were first collected during the
spawning season of 1918. To this day the program continues and golden
trout are planted throughout the Sierra Nevada.
The golden trout is the California State fish and this program,
provided by the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, is the sole source of golden
trout eggs in the state.
been an important part Independence since 1917, the Hatchery has also
been host to high school graduations, weddings, concerts, family
picnics, and numerous other functions. It is a beautiful and unique
setting and is a popular destination for tourists. Located just two
miles north of Independence, the fish hatchery is open year round. The
number of visitors exceeds 60,000 annually.
Photos by V. Zech
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