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Fish Story: Page Springs Hatchery provides a cool treat

The Page Springs Fish Hatchery produces 680,000 trout each year. Page Springs Hatchery is Arizona’s largest state-run hatchery. VVN file photo

The Page Springs Fish Hatchery produces 680,000 trout each year. Page Springs Hatchery is Arizona’s largest state-run hatchery. VVN file photo

Originally Published: January 12, 2021 8:27 a.m.

An oasis like the Page Springs Fish Hatchery tempts avid fishermen, but nature lovers and families also come away excited by the park-like setting.

The state’s largest coldwater fish production facility, the hatchery approximately produces 680,000 trout each year.

Page Springs Hatchery is Arizona’s largest state-run hatchery. It produces on average 218,000 pounds of trout, which equals approximately 57 percent of the stocked trout in Arizona and makes a $185.3 million positive impact to the overall state economy.

The hatchery was selected by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for the Bronze Voluntary Environmental Stewardship Program award. This award is a 3-year recognition that’s available to regulated facilities that don’t have any violations on record with any environmental regulatory agency within the past 3 years. Recipients must maintain this compliance record while a member of the program.

“This is a major accomplishment by our Page Springs hatchery and our water quality staff,” AZGFD Statewide Hatchery Program Manager Geoffrey Rabinovich said. “They work diligently in order to provide sport-fishing opportunities to our constituents, and at the same time, they take responsibility to protect public health and the environment in Arizona.”

The local fish hatchery also has played a key role in the restoration of Gila trout in Arizona. Page Springs Fish Hatchery resides on Commission-owned land and is managed by the Department’s Hatchery Program since 1938.

Page Springs Hatchery was named after the Page family, the previous owners of the property who had been raising trout as far back as the early 1930s. The hatchery is comprised of two separate parcels Page Springs Hatchery and Bubbling Ponds Hatchery totaling approximately 190 acres.

There are two springs on the hatchery that include the “Cave Spring” (also known as the Page Spring Tunnel) and the “Pond Spring Area.”

In 1990-91 the facility was renovated, making it a showcase facility with state of the art raceways and canopies, a visitor center, and a self-guided tour path.

The Audubon Society identified habitat at the hatcheries and riparian area along lower Oak Creek as an Important Bird Area (IBA), and it draws thousands of wildlife watching enthusiasts.

The property has four employee residences, a studio bunkhouse, a large enclosed garage/shop, a large carport, numerous storage sheds and detached garages, a main office, a visitor center with restrooms, and separate areas of canopy-covered rearing units.

The hatchery is staffed by nine full-time employees, all of whom are responsible for day-to-day operation and maintenance of the sites.

Kids and adults love to watch thousands of trout weave and tumble in raceways of the hatchery. The nature trail, bordering Oak Creek provides a cool retreat from the desert sun during the hot months in Arizona.

Temperatures range from 25 degrees in the winter to 100 degrees during the summer.

At the adjoining Bubbling Ponds hatchery, a warm-water facility produces sportfish such as largemouth bass. The hatchery also raises native and endangered fish, as well, including Colorado pikeminnow, Roundtail chub and razorback sucker used in conservation and recovery efforts.

Don’t bother to bring your fishing line this time, you won’t be able to use it here, but trout produced there are stocked in surrounding streams and rivers, including Oak Creek, Verde River, West Clear Creek, and Wet Beaver Creek.

The hatchery provides an interpretive center and self-guided hatchery tour, closing with a visit to the show ponds to see the hatchery’s largest and finest trout. All are handicapped accessible.

At 82 acres, the hatchery on Page Springs Road in Cornville is popular for its glittering fish life, but birders find the location equally popular for the varieties of birdlife that are attracted to the ponds.

The Northern Arizona Audubon Society, especially, has identified the hatchery on its web site. The Audubon Society recently identified habitat at the hatchery and surrounding riparian area along lower Oak Creek as an Important Bird Area.

The society has built two miles of trails for an enchanted nature experience. The trails are a perfect place to commune with nature. A camera is a must.

Early and late in the day skunks and raccoons can be seen in the surrounding glen. The area also attracts mule and white-tailed deer, elk, javelina and black bear.

A picnic area is also available along the quarter-mile long nature trail for families and others who enjoy an outdoor luncheon. The hatchery is closed to fishing. The hatchery is a day-use facility and no camping is available, but consider nearby Forest campgrounds near Sedona or State Park sites near Cottonwood are available.

Originally, a private operation called the Arizona Trout Company, the hatchery started in the early 1930s. In 1938, the Arizona Game and Fish Department leased, and in 1949 purchased, the property. It was extensively renovated in 1993 and the original earthen ponds were replaced with concrete raceways.