The History of Crystal Lake Hatchery

Hat Creek Hatchery 1885-1888

In 1885 the California Fish Commission authorized a hatchery on Hat Creek to spawn salmon. Hat Creek runs off Mount Lassen and into the Pit River. The first hatchery building was 100 feet long by 46 feet wide and had 64 troughs to rear fish. The hatchery had a capacity for about 10 million fertilized eggs.

Unfortunately, the salmon runs were already dwindling by the time the hatchery was constructed. The first year, only 1.2 million eggs were taken, and the second year only a half a million eggs were reared at the facility. In 1888 the Hat Creek site was abandoned since adult salmon returns to the facility were not sufficient to justify operation.

In 1915, eggs taken at another facility were to be raised at the Hat Creek Hatchery. However, Mount Lassen erupted in May of that year and over a period of 3 days ash, mud, snow melt, lava, and debris flooded the Hat Creek drainage. Hat Creek water would be muddied and uninhabitable by trout for several years after the eruption. The damage was considered to be one of the more serious losses of fish life in California.

Burney Creek Hatchery 1927-1949

Located on the Burney Creek arm of Lake Britton, this hatchery was built by Pacific Gas and Electric in lieu of a fish ladder over dam Number 3 on the Pit River. Opened in 1927 the hatchery had 100 troughs. In 1933 the Civilian Conservation Corps added four dirt ponds to provide additional space. In 1937 serious winter floods severely damaged the hatchery; however, it was repaired and remained in operation. Twelve years later in 1949 the water supply at Burney Creek was beginning to deteriorate, most of the buildings were in bad shape, and operations were discontinued.

two-story, gabled building

Crystal Lake Hatchery 1947-Present

Burney Creek Hatchery operations were moved 20 miles to the current location of what is now Crystal Lake Hatchery. Situated on Baum Lake, the hatchery started with 24 raceway ponds, 6 employee houses, and other necessary buildings. Construction of the hatchery started in 1947 and began operation that same year. The first year of operation a serious outbreak of Ceratomyxa shasta (a lethal parasite of trout) caused serious fish loss. The next year, seeing signs of another outbreak, the water supply was changed from Crystal Lake to nearby Rock Creek, which did not have the parasite. The hatchery was completed in 1955. In 1976 the hatchery underwent modernization, and today has 7 raceways capable of rearing 1.5 million fish yearly. Crystal Lake Hatchery plants approximately 60 waters in Lassen, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity counties.

Crystal Lake Hatchery main page

Fisheries Branch
830 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95811 | (916) 327-8840