In November 1986, Congress recognized the unique beauty of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge and made it the nation’s first National Scenic Area. With basalt cliffs and lush fir forests, plummeting waterfalls and panoramic vistas, you definitely want to stop often along this 80-mile-long river route. One particular must-see is the Bonneville Fish Hatchery where you can meet its star attraction-Herman the Sturgeon!
Looking kind of like a prehistoric catfish, Herman is 10 feet long, weighs 450 pounds, and is more than 70 years old. He’s not exactly what you’d call cute, but he is interesting. White sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America, can grow to double Herman’s current size, and commonly reach centenarian age. Sturgeon have existed for 175 million years and have changed very little during that time, so it’s for good reason this big fish looks to be left over from the dinosaur age. Like sharks, sturgeon has a cartilaginous (rather than bony) skeleton. You can watch Herman leisurely gliding through his pond from two areas- by peering down at him from up top, or from an underground viewing area where he sometimes comes right up to the glass.
Since sturgeon are primarily bottom-feeders, the coin-operated fish food dispensers you’ll find at the Hatchery are meant for feeding the salmon and trout that also reside in huge tanks and ponds. Just toss in the pellets (25 cents for a handful) and watch lightning-fast fish compete for a snack! Bonneville Fish Hatchery is home to millions of Coho and Chinook salmon and trout, most of which are eventually released into the Columbia River and its tributaries. Inside the Hatchery’s spawning center, you can watch workers sort incoming salmon, harvest eggs and male milt, and care for young frys, finglerings and smolts. Each stage of the operation is on display, or documented on continuous-run videos.
Each year, millions of motorists wend their way into the Columbia River Gorge on the border between northern Oregon and southern Washington. On your next trip through this scenic area, be sure to stop at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and say hello to Herman. The Bonneville Lock and Dam is located next door to the Hatchery, so there is plenty to see and do.
The accuracy of this material is assured by the local author who has visited this location many times. Bonneville Fish Hatchery is nine miles east of Multnomah Falls on Interstate 84. The exits for the hatchery are clearly marked.