Tonto Creek History

The property is owned by the U.S. Forest Service (Tonto Forest), and operated by the Department’s Hatchery Program. The facility was constructed in 1937 and had a major renovation in 1993 that converted the facility to its current use of 12 covered raceways and a show pond. The property includes 4 residences, a hatchery shop/garage, a large office building which contains a small visitor center with public restrooms as well as indoor tanks, and several smaller structures for operational use. The property is staffed by four full-time employees who reside on site and are responsible for day-to-day operations and maintenance of the site.

Since June 23, the hatchery is closed to the public due to the identification of New Zealand
Mudsnails downstream.

Fish production history

Species Raised: Apache, rainbow, brook, cutthroat, tiger, and brown trout are raised at the hatchery. [add links]

Where and when fish are stocked – schedule [add link]

The average production of the hatchery is 50,000 lbs. of trout which represents 15% of all the trout stocked in Arizona, contributing to the economy of the state with approximately $72.7 million annually.

Hatchery location

Tonto Creek Hatchery is located near the headwaters of Tonto Creek beneath the Mogollon Rim in the Tonto National Forest is located approximately 21 miles east of Payson off of Highway 260. Turn north from SR 260 at the signed road near Kohl’s Ranch Resort and travel four miles to the end of the road. The road is paved to the facility. The last five miles are along a narrow double-lane road with a minimum 7-percent grade in some sections that can be snow covered at times during the winter. Under normal conditions, the roads are clear within 48 hours of a storm.

Tonto is open 7 days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  The hatchery is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the facility and feed the fish at the show pond. The annual public visitation is estimated at 50,000 – 60,000. Call ahead of visiting in winter. Bad weather conditions are likely as the hatchery frequently closes to the public during winter months due to snow and icy conditions. Contact us:  928 478-4200.

Tonto Creek Property

In 1990-91 the facility was renovated, making it a showcase facility with state of the art raceways and canopies, a visitor center, and a self-guided tour path. The Audubon Society identified habitat at the hatcheries and riparian area along lower Oak Creek as an Important Bird Area (IBA), and it draws thousands of wildlife watching enthusiasts. For detailed information, check out the Tucson Audubon website or the Northern Arizona Audubon website.

A recently completed nature trail, with signs describing riparian habitat and wildlife, meanders through the hatchery grounds and along Oak Creek. The trail is a great place to see wildlife and view birds.

The property has a visitor center with restrooms, and separate areas of canopy-covered rearing units. The hatchery is staffed by nine full-time employees, all of whom are responsible for day-to-day operation and maintenance of the sites.

Wildlife: The unique setting of Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery provides habitat for many wildlife species.

Birds: Some common birds seen in the area are heron, kingfisher, and osprey.

Mammals: A few fish-eaters such as raccoons have been known to stop by and try to sample trout at the hatchery. In the surrounding areas, whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, turkey, fox, coyote, and black bear are found.

Management goals of the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery property are to provide for the continued operation of fish culture activities, and to provide public outdoor recreation opportunities and educational interpretation.

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