The Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery is part of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife System. This 219-acre hatchery in Bellvue, Colorado, offers the opportunity to learn about a hatchery. You can have the unique experience of feeding the hatchery fish. The hatchery is a short drive from Lory State Park and Horsetooth Reservoir.
Entering Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery
There is no charge to visit the Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery.
Hatchery Entrance – The Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery is at 4936 West County Road 52E, Bellvue, Colorado 80512.
Once you get to the entrance, you will need to continue straight. There will be an open gate with a parking lot and building. You can park within this parking lot. The building is not open to the public.
Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center
Once you walk towards the hatchery area there will be a sign and a small building on the left side. The sign explains the fish life cycle, has a map of the hatchery, and the importance of the hatchery.
The small building is the visitor center, which has a display of the different trout that are bred at the hatchery, passport stamp, and fly fishing display.
There is a fish food quarter machine that is next to the visitor center. There are also cups attached to the machine so that you can carry the food with you through the hatchery.
Our Experience at Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery
Why We Visited The Hatchery
This was a special experience for me to share with my kids. I will be the first to admit that a fish hatchery is probably not going to be on the top of any best attraction list. For me, it was. I remember as a kid going to a fish hatchery in New York State with my family. The memories are kind of vague, but I remember how it started a curiosity about aquaculture.
Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments.
This is an interest that has fascinated me through the years. At one point, I researched degrees in aquaculture (they exist!) and learned more about breeding fish for fun and profit. This simple, no-frills experience made a lasting impression on me. I wanted to share this with my kids.,
Feeding The Fish
We pulled into the hatchery parking lot. I wasn’t entirely sure where to go from there. The building door was open. We peeked our heads inside. My kids worried that we were going to get arrested for trespassing. My quick answer of how it was okay since the door was open did make me question my logic. We started heading toward the gated entrance with the small building, which we later found out to be the visitor center. I turned around and saw one of the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife staff. I asked him if we could just wander around outside. He welcomed us to the hatchery and invited us to explore the outdoor area.
Our wandering began. My kids were very interested in feeding the fish. There was a quarter gumball-style machine near the entrance, so they asked for the quarters I brought. I gave them one each. They quickly filled up the cup and ran to feed the fish. They were so excited about seeing the fish jump out of the water to get the food. They ran back to me asking for more quarters so I just went back to the car for all the quarters I could find. I could hear them laughing and having fun while feeding the fish.
Tips for Visiting the Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery
- Bring quarters. There were no change machines around. There were not any stores adjacent or close to the Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery.
- Consider combining the Bellvue-Watson State Fish Hatchery experience with a visit to nearby Horsetooth Reservoir or Lory State Park. They are close to one another and can turn your day into a fun-filled day in nature.
- Visit the Watson Lake State Wildlife Area, which is outside of the fenced-in fishery section. Please note that a valid hunting or fishing license or SWA pass is required for everyone 16 or older accessing any state wildlife area. You can walk on the trail to Watson Lake and Cache la Poudre River.