Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery
Located at about 6,500 feet elevation in the Tonto National Forest, the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery is a great place to escape searing desert summer heat, or to frolic in winter snow. The hatchery and surrounding wetland area provide outstanding opportunities for learning adventures and family outings such as picnics, hiking and watching wildlife. Recreational Opportunities – Day Use Only Visit the hatchery to learn about hatchery fish production and view wildlife. Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery produces and stocks about 165,000 catchable rainbow trout and 400,000 brook and cutthroat trout each year, plus about 150,000 of Arizona's state fish-the Apache trout.
Hatchery grounds include the hatchery operation itself, as well as surrounding wetlands and streams. These habitats are essential to the survival of many types of wildlife in Arizona, so they provide opportunities for viewing many species, especially birds. The Highline Trial that runs along the rim country passes near the hatchery. The hatchery is open from 8 a.m.—4 p.m. daily, except holidays.
Camping: There are no camping facilities at the hatchery. However, many Forest Service and private camping areas exist along the road into the facility. For more information about camping, contact the Payson Ranger District at (928) 474-7900.
Bird-watching and photography: The hatchery and surrounding area offer excellent birding habitat. Check out the Northern Arizona Audubon Web site.
Fishing: Though the Hatchery is closed to angling, trout produced in the facilities are stocked in surrounding streams and rivers, including Tonto Creek. To find out where or when a river or pond will be stocked, click on the stocking schedule or where to fish on the department's Fishing Web page.
CAUTION: Daytime temperatures vary from highs around 90°F in the summer to as cold as 0°F in the winter.
- The hatchery is closed to fishing. Location The hatchery is located about 21 miles east of Payson. Page Springs Fish Hatchery is located within Game Management Unit 22.
Directions: Head east out of Payson on Route 260 to Kohl's Ranch. Then turn north onto Tonto Creek Road and follow signs, about four miles, to the hatchery.
Wildlife The unique setting of Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery provides habitat for many wildlife species.
Fish: Apache, rainbow and brown trout are raised at the hatchery.
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, elk, and black bear are found.
Management History, Objectives and Goals
The Tonto Creek property has been operated by the department as an aquaculture facility since 1938. The property was only two acres at that time. The property was expanded in 1954 and again in 1987 and now comprises 50 acres.
Management goals of the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery property are to provide for the continued operation of fish culture activities, to protect and enhance the wildlife habitat of the property, and to provide public outdoor recreation opportunities like wildlife watching and educational interpretation.
Arizona's state fish, the Apache trout, was almost lost entirely, but through the efforts of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the White Mountain Apache Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service, it has been reclassified under the Endangered Species Act from "endangered" to "threatened." Apache trout are now being stocked into the upper portions of the East and West forks of the Black River as a sport fish.