Take time to visit one of the most beautiful and well-preserved historic sites in Spearfish. D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery is a free family attraction located just blocks from downtown along Spearfish Creek.
With the popularity of trout fishing and the abundance of streams and great fishing opportunities in the area, visitors might not realize that trout are not native to the Black Hills.
In 1890 — because of the pristine water, habitat, and food sources for trout — Congress appropriated $500 to investigate the possibility of placing a hatchery near the Black Hills to establish trout populations in the area. After considering several locations, Spearfish was finally chosen because of the abundance of pure, cold spring water and its proximity to the town and railroad system.
In 1899 the completed hatchery building (which now houses the museum), raceways, ice house, and rearing ponds were accepted from the contractor; and four days later, 100,000 trout eggs were incubating.
After a very successful fish-production period that included overland trips to Yellowstone National Park; destructive floods; visits by heads of state; railroad journeys; and the hatching of millions of rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout, the Spearfish National Fish Hatchery was closed. In 1989, however, the hatchery was rehabilitated and reopened with a new museum, public restrooms, visitor center, and underwater viewing area. The Fish and Wildlife Service resumed operations of the facility with a new mission to assemble, preserve, protect, make accessible to researchers, and interpret the history and technology of fish culture. The museum collection at D.C. Booth is growing and is currently one of the largest collections of fishery history and artifacts in the nation.
Today, over 150,000 visitors visit D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery every year.
Between 20,000 to 30,000 rainbow trout are stocked out of D.C. Booth each year by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks into nearby lakes and streams for anglers to enjoy. Visitors can get up close and personal with brown and rainbow trout by feeding them from above or watching them through the underwater viewing windows.
The Von Bayer Museum of Fisheries History was created to preserve the vibrant history and rich heritage of American fisheries workers. The museum collection contains over 175,000 items and is the largest collection of fisheries artifacts in the country. The museum is open daily during the summer season.
Spanning ten acres, the entire hatchery site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the general landscape is itself a historic resource. Ponds, rock walls, water systems, and buildings all contribute to the site’s historical significance. The 10 acre grounds also includes nature trails with scenic overlooks. Although many alterations have been made to the site over the years, each change tells a story about hatchery operations.
The Yellowstone Boat
U.S. Fisheries Boat #39, a wooden “Great Lakes” style cabin cruiser, tells the story of early hatchery workers who went on expeditions to Yellowstone National Park to collect trout eggs to be returned to the hatchery and stocked in the Black Hills.
Two life-size bronze sculptures can be seen on the hatchery grounds depicting the lives of early fisheries workers and the important role that fishing plays in American tradition and culture today.
The Booth House
The Neo-Colonial Revival Booth House, built for the first superintendant in 1905, is open for tours to visitors who can learn about the history of the house and the families that lived and worked on hatcheries. Don’t forget to visit Ruby’s Garden behind the house, which is the site of dozens of weddings throughout the summer.
Before the advent of refrigerated tanker trucks, fish hatcheries were faced with the problem of how to quickly move fish from hatcheries to lakes and rivers around the country.
During the “Fish Car Era,” ten specially-designed railcars were constructed; and by 1920, fish cars had carried over 72 billion fish across 2 million miles of railroad track. D.C. Booth is home to the only fisheries railcar exhibit in the country. Visitors to this unique and beautifully-restored railcar will learn about the history of the Fish Car Era — a 66-year period that played a key role in enriching the nation’s national resources and created a unique, romantic, and proud tradition.
The Pond Gift Shop
Visit The Pond gift shop for hatchery and fisheries souvenirs, books, nature toys and gifts, fly fishing supplies, and of course fish food. The gift shop provides information on the Black Hills, South Dakota fishing licensing, and the Fishing Tackle Loaner Program, which allows visitors to check out fishing poles and gear to use off-site at no cost.
Admission to the hatchery is always free, although donations are appreciated.
Grounds are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
Guided tours through the Booth House, museum, and railcar are generally available every day from May through September.
Visitors can feed the fish and view them through the underwater viewing windows.
For more information or to check exhibit hours, call (605) 642-7730.