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Leaburg Fish Hatchery has been a favorite day trip location for over 20 years, even before we had kids. It’s a wonderful place to have a picnic, take a walk, and feed fish! In recent years, they’ve made several improvements and we were especially surprised to see a few more on our recent trip.
When you arrive at Leaburg Fish Hatchery, via a scenic drive along the Mckenzie River, you’ll cross the dam and have a few choices of where to go next. Turn to the left and you can park near the bathrooms, explore a small info center, and fish from the shoreline. Go straight and you’ll enter a lush park with picnic tables, fire pits, and volleyball nets. Go toward the right and you’ll enter the magical world of the fish hatchery. Park beneath towering fir and cedar trees, and the roar of the water through the dam will be the first thing you hear. The air is fresh and bright, and it’s easy to forget the rest of the world even exists.
Right next to the parking area are the display ponds. Here, you can feed rainbow trout and, if you’re lucky, see huge sturgeon. There’s a fish feeding machine, so bring plenty of quarters. They’ve made improvements to the path around the ponds, shoring up the perimeter and replacing a couple of the bridges.
Leaburg Hatchery Ponds
After walking around the display ponds and feeding the fish, we wandered over to the hatchery’s ponds. Many of them were empty this time of year, but there were a few that had baby trout.
A little Google digging tells me these blue tanks were rearing ponds. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has the following photo from 2004:
Leaburg Hatchery Aquatic Education Park
After exploring all of the cement ponds, toward the back of the hatchery is a small treasure that you must not miss. We’ve never seen it before, so it must be pretty new. This sign is the entrance to an accessible deck overlooking a small pond, and a short interpretive trail. The trail isn’t wheelchair- or stroller-friendly, so I took the big kids and we walked the trail while reading the signs.
Riverside Observation Deck and Gigantic Trees
For the last part of our visit to the Leaburg Hatchery, we walked along the river. Bordering the hatchery is a row of gigantic cedar trees and the Mckenzie River, a sparkling blue roiling with rapids after the dam. There’s an accessible observation deck, perfect for enjoying the river view.
If you have little ones who have to be hand-held or in a stroller, this deck is perfect to let them out and let them stretch their legs a bit. It’s completely safe for toddlers and an easy spot to contain them for a few minutes so they can “get the wiggles out”.
History of Leaburg Fish Hatchery
Leaburg Fish Hatchery was built in 1953, coinciding with the closure of nearby Old Mckenzie Trout Hatchery (half mile north, on the other side of the lake and highway, now a county park). The dam at the Leaburg Fish Hatchery was built during the late 1920s and went into operation in 1930. It continues to provide hydro-electric power to the city of Eugene through Eugene Water & Electric Board.
If You Go
If you’re near the Eugene/Springfield area, or passing through on the Mckenzie Highway, the Leaburg Fish Hatchery is a perfect place to stretch your legs, let the kids run, and have a picnic. Sometimes the hatchery is our only destination, other times it’s just a stop along the way. We love to visit and I always enjoy seeing the changes they’ve made between our visits. It’s also an ideal place to visit during the winter, because the walkways are paved, so no mud!
The hatchery is about 20 minutes from Springfield (30 from Eugene). Bathrooms are available. Food and drinks are nearby at Ike’s Pizza, across the highway. There are multiple picnic areas, including a couple that are covered. Plenty of parking, and visiting is free.
Oh, and remember to take quarters for the fish food!
Parking: lots of parking available along the display ponds and under the trees
Bathrooms: flush toilets available to the left of the bridge, vault toilets available in the hatchery parking lot
One final note
Update 4/30/2019 – sadly, the Leaburg Fish Hatchery is in danger of closing July 1, 2019. An organization called Save the Leaburg Fish Hatchery is trying to convince legislators to vote to fund the hatchery. Follow their efforts and if you’re inclined, write to our state lawmakers in support.
A recent Register-Guard article details the closure, and with 90,000 visitors a year, the hatchery may be worth funding simply for the tourism. Here’s to hoping.
What a fun little family adventure! One of our favorite parks here in Michigan had once been a fish hatchery for the state. It has since been converted to a park but we still enjoy the trails through the ponds they once used, and it even has a small train depot (obviously no longer in use) where they would load up the fish to ship them to other parts of the state.