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The Simple Beginning

The third in a series of articles on Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery.

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

In 1901, Dennis Winn, who was then stationed at the Little White Salmon Hatchery, delivered, by rowboat, the first fall chinook eggs to Spring Creek, taken from the White Salmon River.

Winn had noticed the abundant spring water entering the Columbia River from the basalt cliffs and he suggested it might be a good area to incubate some of the salmon eggs. Temporary troughs were set up under tents and incubation began.

At that time there were no roads or railroads -- the only access to Spring Creek area was by Columbia River steamers. The farmers in the area shipped their strawberries and other crops to market via steamer, too.

In 1901, the Big White Substation received congressional authorization to operate independently as a hatchery for the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.

After spawning was over in late September, work at the hatchery was simple and repetitive. The first five days of incubation, the eggs were hand picked by the crew. This was to remove dead eggs so they would not spread disease to the living, healthy eggs. They were then covered and allowed to remain undisturbed for about a month.

At around 30 days old, they were again hand washed thoroughly and picked at regular intervals until shortly before hatching, which was around late October. Then they were distributed into troughs, 5,000 to each apartment (wooden troughs were sectioned into "fish apartments"), after which they were tended as before.

As it had been decided to rear as many fry as possible, arrangements were made for a supply of fish food consisting principally of ground beef liver mixed with mill feed. Canned salmon was used as experimental fish food, but it was not of good quality and the results were not satisfactory.

Just over three million salmon fry were returned to the White Salmon River for release the spring of 1902.

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