Leaburg Fish Hatchery – An easy day trip for kids of all ages

We’ve lived in the Eugene/Springfield area for almost 20 years (actually, my husband grew up here) and Leaburg Fish Hatchery has been a favorite day trip location even before we had kids.  In recent years, they’ve made several improvements and we were especially surprised to see a few more on our recent trip.

When you arrive at Leaburg Fish Hatchery, via a scenic drive along the Mckenzie River, you’ll cross the dam and have a few choices of where to go next.  Turn left and you can park near the bathrooms, explore a small info center, and fish from the shoreline.  Go straight and you’ll enter a lush park with picnic tables and fire pits.  Go right and you’ll enter the magical world of the fish hatchery.  Park beneath towering fir and cedar trees, and the roar of the water through the dam will be the first thing you hear.  The air is fresh and bright, and it’s easy to forget the rest of the world even exists.

The Leaburg Dam near the Leaburg Fish Hatchery

Display Ponds

Right next to the parking area are the display ponds.  Here, you can feed rainbow trout and, if you’re lucky, see huge sturgeon.  There’s a fish feeding machine, so bring plenty of quarters.  They’ve made improvements to the path around the ponds, shoring up the perimeter and replacing a couple of the bridges.

Little ones in a stroller alongside display pond at Leaburg Fish Hatchery

Our big kids were able to learn a bit about the life cycle, as they found a dead fish under the bridge. My husband explained what happens to animals and fish when they die in the wild, and my kids were fascinated, even as they were grossed out!

Picnic shelter at Leaburg Fish Hatchery

There’s even a picnic shelter, inviting you to spend the day!

Leaburg Hatchery Ponds

After walking around the display ponds and feeding the fish, we wandered over to the hatchery’s ponds.  Many of them were empty this time of year, but there were a few that had baby trout.

Kids looking into ponds at Leaburg Fish Hatchery in Oregon

Many rows of long, skinny hatchery ponds fill the grounds at Leaburg Fish Hatchery. Some months of the year, nearly every pond will be filled with fish. On our visit, in late March, only a few of the ponds held fish. Visitors aren’t able to feed these fish, but it’s fun to watch them thrash to the surface in hopes of food.

Old ponds at Leaburg Fish Hatchery

When we first started coming to Leaburg, these ponds were still in use. It’s been years since I’ve seen fish in them, so I’m not sure they’re used at all anymore. But it was interesting to imagine how they would have been used.

 

Leaburg Hatchery Aquatic Education Park

After exploring all of the cement ponds, toward the back of the hatchery is a small treasure that you must not miss.  We’ve never seen it before, so it must be pretty new.  This sign is the entrance to an accessible deck overlooking a small pond, and a short interpretive trail.  The trail isn’t wheelchair- or stroller-friendly, so I took the big kids and we walked the trail while reading the signs.

Leaburg Fish Hatchery aquatic education park with interpretive trail and accessible observation deck

Our kids checking out the observation deck over a small pond

Interpretive Trail sign at Leaburg Fish Hatchery

One of several interpretive signs along the trail. Here, you could easily see the riffles and it was easy to imagine a fish stopping there for a bite to eat.

Interpretive trail - great for kids - at Leaburg Hatchery

The trail is a loop from the observation deck back up to the hatchery’s road. It’s an easy trail for kids, less than 1/4 mile, and perfect for enjoying the day or for learning about the life cycle of fish and the stream habitat. The trail isn’t wide enough for strollers in several spots, so I only took my big kids. My husband kept the littles up on the observation deck.

Riverside Observation Deck and Gigantic Trees

For the last part of our visit to the Leaburg Hatchery, we walked along the river.  Bordering the hatchery is a row of gigantic cedar trees and the Mckenzie River, a sparkling blue roiling with rapids after the dam.  There’s an accessible observation deck, perfect for enjoying the river view.

 

Inside of Leaburg Fish Hatchery, Oregon

We peeked through the windows of the hatchery and marveled at all of the equipment used to sort the fish.

Leaburg Fish Hatchery

 

If you’re near the Eugene/Springfield area, or passing through on the Mckenzie Highway, the Leaburg Fish Hatchery is a perfect place to stretch your legs, let the kids run, and have a picnic.  Sometimes the hatchery is our only destination, other times it’s just a stop along the way.  We love to visit and I always enjoy seeing the changes they’ve made between our visits.