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Those first growing pains

4th in a series of articles on Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery.

(Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles on Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, leading up to the facility's 100th anniversary in September.)

By 1900, the combined population of Idaho, Oregon and Washington reached one million.

In 1902, Mr. G. H. Tolbert was placed in charge of the Big White Substation with a crew of two men. The crew of two men lived in a tent, cooked for themselves, and did all the work at the hatchery.

As there were no buildings at this point, the necessary camp and tool equipment were transferred from the Little White Salmon Station.

Spawning seasons were the busiest time of the year and usually a crew of four to six men were employed during September and October. May through July, the slowest season, the resident manager would maintain the basic hatchery duties. All other months, two men could operate the hatchery.

Camp was pitched within 300 yards of the mouth of the White Salmon River, and the fish-trapping ground was located 500 yards from the mouth of the river. Old troughs were freighted from the Little White Salmon Station and set up under tents on Spring Creek, a small stream below the mouth of the White Salmon River. Here a fine water supply was available, which was not only clear at all times, but never varied in temperature.

As time went on there was not sufficient room for the fry being reared, and 100 new troughs were made for the station and set up out of doors. Boards were placed over the troughs to deter birds from feeding on the small salmon.

The troughs were supplied with water from a 500-foot flume; temporarily, but substantially built. During this expansion project, an undetermined number of salmon fry accidently escaped into Spring Creek -- the exact number not known -- as the fry merely swam away.

Three or four years later, about 1905, the substation crew observed salmon trying to enter Spring Creek waters, but were unable to do so because of a rock ledge which prevented their entry into the creek channel.

The crew hastily surrounded the few salmon that were there and placed them in the creek above the rock ledge; they made no effort to return back to the river. Spawn was collected there -- the beginning of the Spring Creek stock.


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