Distance: 1.25-mile loop
Activities: Interpretive trail
Terrain: Trout streams, hardwoods
Oden State Fish Hatchery was built in 1921 and from the beginning was a popular stop for people traveling US-31 to view trout in the raceways and pools. In 2002 the state built a new hatchery a half mile to the north and then spent $2 million to turn the original site into the Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center with trails, displays and a viewing chamber that puts visitors eye-to-eye with a trout.
The original hatchery building is now a visitors center with an information area on fishing in Michigan along with a video of hatchery operations and a collection of mounted fish including the state record brown trout, a 34-pound, six-ounce monster.
The most interesting exhibits are in an adjacent railroad car that has been renovated to resemble the Wolverine, Michigan's last "fish car." From 1888 to 1931, fish cars were used to transport millions of trout across the state from the hatcheries to the streams and lakes being stocked.
Inside the Wolverine are rolls of milk cans that were packed in ice and used to carry the hatchery fish. They were painted in bright colors as not be confused with milk cans that actually held milk. The car also contains the living quarters for "fish mechanics," young hatchery workers who lived and traveled on the train. Their main task was to aerate the water to keep the fish alive.
From the rail car Hatchery Loop winds 1.25 miles across the 130-acre site to the raceways at the Oden Fish Hatchery as a mix of two-tracks and paved paths. The Nature Trail, a paved handicapped-accessible path, is a loop of only 0.8 miles that includes the Stream Viewing Chamber and Big Fish Pond. Both routes wind through upland hardwoods, skirt Oden Creek and include interpretive exhibits.
The visitor’s center and a hike to the thousands of trout swimming in the raceways makes for an ideal adventure for families with young children, an outing where they are guaranteed to see fish.
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