Located just outside of Independence, Inyo County, California the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery has played an important role in the preservation of the Golden Trout. Beyond the hatchery’s primary purpose, the site makes an excellent location to pull off the highway, relax in the shade and enjoy a picnic lunch. This is how I was introduced to the hatchery 30 years ago, and it is still much anticipated stop each time I travel the 395 highway.
The fish hatchery began life in 1915, when the town of Independence raised money for and subsequently purchased a 40 acre parcel of ideal land in Oak Creek. Using foresight not seen in our time, Fish and Game Commissioner M. J. Connell directed he direct the design team “to design a building that would match the mountains, would last forever, and would be a showplace for all time.” Charles Dean of the State Department of Engineering and the design time team decided upon a “Tudor Revival” architectural style.
Utilizing a budget of $60,000 the hatchery project was started in March 1916 and complete one year later. The building was built using 3200 tones of local granite quarried nearby, boasts walls up to three feet thick and features a Spanish Tile roof. When the facility was brought online in 1917, the hatchery could produce two million fry per year. The fish hatchery operated until 2008, when on July 12th a flood and mudslide tore down the Oak Creek watershed which in 2007 was burnt in a wild fire. The resulting mudslide buried the fish rearing ponds, destroyed four buildings and killed the entire population of Rainbow Trout.
Currently a restoration project is in process, however the fate of the hatchery operation remains unknown.