This Colorado fish hatchery established in 1889 is the second oldest federally operated hatcheries operated today. It is located on over 3,000 acres near the city of Leadville, Colorado and the subalpine forest makes it the perfect spot for trout production due to its cold, clean water supply. The hatchery counts among its fish Snake River cutthroat trout, greenback cutthroat trout, and rainbow trout. While a fish hatchery may not be the first thing on your list of must see destinations, visiting Leadville's hatchery is exciting for visitors of all ages. The hatchery is open to the public and gives you a close up view of the fish production process. It receives about 36,000 visitors each year and there is a volunteer run Visitors Center. Tours can be scheduled to groups.
There are several public fishing festivities that go on in the Leadville area and the hatchery participates in all of them. There is the Annual 5th grad Pathways to Fishing Program. The hatchery also supports the Leadville 100 and Fish Hatchery 5K race.
In addition to the hatchery, visitors to the area can enjoy fish feeding, hiking, a picnic, bird watching, photography, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Hikes through the wild may expose you to blue birds, great blue herons, hawks, juncos, eagles, waterfowl, deer, elk, raccoons, porcupines, fox, and pine martins. Educational tours and programs are offered throughout the year for the general public and for school groups.
The hatchery was originally used to produce trout distributed over all of the Rocky Mountain region. There were also fish put into The Black Hills area and parts of Wyoming that featured no native trout. Today, at over 120 years old, the Leadville hatchery provides trout for anglers throughout the Rocky Mountain Region. The main building is still used today and it is made of native red sandstone. Over 30 stonemasons were required to construct the building and at the time was described as "the most magnificent building in western Colorado.''
Whirling disease has brought a number of changes to the hatchery. There are no longer ponds with earthen bottoms used because of contamination. To make up for the lost capacity, eight new concrete raceways were constructed for trout rearing. They also built a water treatment plant in 2004. This plant is home to two drum filters, four UV radiators that remove any traces of the disease from the water, and two disc filters. The hatchery has been certified as whirling disease free for nearly five years running.
After your tour of the hatchery, head into Leadville for some relaxation, dining and fun. Restaurants include the Golden Burro Cafy and Lounge, the Halfmoon Delicatessen, Gringo's Restaurant, Manuelita's, the Silver Dollar Saloon, and The Grill Bar and Cafy. These numerous dining options offer visitors to Leadville a variety of cuisine choices and price ranges. If you are traveling through Leadville, or you are an angler with an interest in the care and stocking of trout, the Leadville National Fish Hatchery is a great place to visit.