History of Mount Whitney Hatchery

Built in 1917, Mount Whitney hatchery was constructed to serve the southern counties in California. The long haul from Mount Shasta Hatchery was rough on the fish, and a hatchery was needed in the south of the state. Spearheaded by Commissioner M. J. Connell of Los Angeles, the location of the proposed hatchery was hotly contested between different sites. Eventually an agreement was made to build the structure on Oak Creek, near the town of Independence. Local fundraising efforts gathered enough money, about $1,850 for the purchase of 40 acres. The hatchery was built from locally sourced granite and has withstood aging and weather for nearly 100 years.

Mt Whitney Hatchery showing newly improved grounds
Mt Whitney Hatchery Circa 1920 - black and white photo
Mt Whitney Hatchery, circa 1920

The hatchery building contains 120 troughs and had a capacity of 3 million fingerlings. These fingerlings were used to stock rearing ponds at Fish Springs and Black Rock Hatchery. They were also used to airplane stock the lakes of the Mono-Inyo area.

Mt Whitney Hatchery building with lake in front

The hatchery and the surrounding area were severely damaged in 2008 when heavy rains pounded the already fire damaged Oak Creek watershed. This triggered a massive debris flow that killed all the rainbow trout, destroyed four buildings and buried the fish rearing ponds.

Hatchery residence after 2008 flood
Hatchery residence after 2008 flood
Broodstock ponds after 2008 flood
Broodstock ponds after 2008 flood

The hatchery site is located on an alluvial fan or natural mud flow out of the Sierra and thus is prone to such events. Due to the high amounts of loose sediment still in large stretches of the creeks, CDFW geologists advised against reconnecting the hatchery's fish rearing water source. Restoration of the watershed may take several years to complete and until that time, Oak Creek is susceptible to reoccurrence of flooding. Several alternatives for stabilizing the area are under consideration, but definitive plans have yet to be approved.

Mount Whitney Aerial Google Aerial map
Hatchery after 2008 flood

CDFW remains committed to trout stocking goals in the Eastern Sierra. No disruption to CDFW's stocking program in the Eastern Sierra is anticipated. Nearby Black Rock Hatchery, where fish production takes place for the Eastern Sierra, was not damaged and continues to stock fish on a regular basis.

Mount Whitney Hatchery typically produced about 8 million rainbow trout eggs annually and supplied eggs to CDFW production hatcheries throughout the state. CDFW increased rainbow trout egg production at other state hatcheries to compensate for this loss.

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