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Grant's Getaway - Visitor Friendly Hatchery

by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

kgw.com

Posted on March 27, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:35 PM

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The wonderful thing about travel in Oregon is that the opportunities to learn more about the northwest environment wait for the visitor at every turn.

That's certainly true at this week's Grant's Getaway location that may also be one of the most overlooked sites in the area, yet provides varied and interesting environmental lessons about salmon and steelhead.

WATCH VIDEO VERSION

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Certainly the price is right when Grant McOmie shows us the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's North Fork Nehalem Hatchery, in Clatsop County. It is one of many state managed ODFW Hatcheries.

The site is open daily, no reservations are required and a visit is absolutely free to the public.

Just ninety minutes from Portland, the hatchery offers activities that teach much about the fish and their ties with the aquatic environment.

You can stroll past rearing ponds that are brim full of baby salmon or trout; perhaps you will time your visit on "spawning day" when you can watch how the next generation of salmon is produced.

The steelhead eggs are certainly the future, not only for the hatchery, but also in many nearby classrooms.
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Each spring, thousands of surplus salmon and steelhead and trout eggs leave hatcheries like the North Fork Nehalem with volunteers like Leroy Schultz.

He's part of a small army of volunteers, many of them members of the sports-conservation group called the Northwest Steelheaders.

They take the eggs, aquarium tanks and lots of enthusiasm into hundreds of classrooms each year.

We joined Schultz as he delivered 500 trout eggs to a classroom at Banks Elementary School through a unique Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Education Program called Eggs to Fry.

Nehalem Hatchery Manager, Joe Watkins, noted that, "It's an opportunity to become connected to the resource and understand the life cycle of salmon and steelhead and their importance to the culture of Oregon."

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Over a period of about six weeks, the eggs develop into fry in the chilled water inside a 20-gallon aquarium tank. The process provides Banks Elementary teacher, Mrs. Chris McOmie, what she calls "teachable moments" in diverse subjects like math, art, science, reading and writing.

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"There could not be a better way to teach the life cycle of a rainbow trout beginning with the eggs to the release of the fry. It's become a centerpiece of the school year for my students... and it wouldn't happen without ODFW's participation."

When the fish are ready for release the students are ready to help, according to Schultz. He added, "They get so excited about coming out and releasing their fish...and to see the smiling faces of those kids - and the memories! They will remember it forever. That's one of the best parts about this."

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"Eggs to Fry" is but one outreach program that relies upon ODFW's hatcheries, their programs and their participation.

Another popular program is helping to restore watersheds for wild salmon through a project called "Carcass Seeding."

It relies upon volunteers from various watersheds who handle the carcasses of spawned out salmon or steelhead and physically place them in small tributary streams high in the watershed.

Watkins explained, "Those fish will go out into the watershed and take the place of the carcasses that used to be there when we had strong fish runs. We've learned that it's very important to have a fertile watershed and salmon and steelhead play an important role in that."

Back at the Nehalem Hatchery, stroll down to the banks of North Fork of the Nehalem River and check out the unique Disabled Angler Platform where big fish are always on the bite for anglers who need a break.

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Longtime fisherman Curt Fuller said that the platform has been a dream come true for hundreds of anglers who cannot walk the banks of most rivers.

"Here, we have the best of all worlds - a great place to fish because there are lots of fish to catch."

Local fisherman Mark Erickson added, "This gives them a paved, flat spot where they can easily wheel down in their chairs, and they have places to sit too. Plus, the fish are definitely here! In fact, the number of fish they catch is amazing!"

Keep your eyes on the sky for some amazing sights as well - bald eagles are known to soar overhead - and closer to ground, Roosevelt elk are often seen in the nearby forests.

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Finally, make tracks for the Trail to Umbrella Falls, a 30-foot fan-shaped drop over a near vertical basalt cliff. It's a short, easy and scenic stroll to reach the namesake falls for a stunning moment along the river.

North Fork Nehalem Hatchery is a place that's never twice the same and will provide lasting memories that promises to teach you something new about Oregon.

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