travel tales for family and friends. . .

wild horses. . .Theodore Roosevelt NP - North Dakota

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Athens TX Fish Hatchery

What an absolutely fabulous way to spend the day.
Who would have ever thought that a fish hatchery could be so interesting, and entertaining.
For an unbelievably low entrance price of only $5.50,
and children, ages 4 - 12, only $3.50, we were blown away by all the activities offered.

A map of the facility is available free at the entry. Listed on the back of the map are all the activities scheduled for the day.

The official website does not do justice to all the activities. You could bring a carload of kids, and a picnic lunch, spend the day, and have a lot of fun very inexpensively. I wanted to share with you a few of the things we saw and did while we were there.

A diver goes into the tank to feed the fish.

The diver has a microphone inside his helmet, so, as he is feeding the different types of fish, he explains what they are, what they like to eat, how long they have been at the fishery, and about how old each fish might be. This event was held in an air conditioned auditorium, so it was very comfortable. The guides encouraged all the children to come up front and sit on the floor, so they were very close to the action. The diver took questions from the audience, so the interaction was amazing.

He first fed the smaller fish just a regular pellet type fish food, and explained that sometimes the larger fish eat the smaller fish. He then fed cut bait to several different species who would come right up and eat out of his hand. The bass only eat live food, so he fed them last. We learned that bass love goldfish, which are raised at the hatchery for fish food, and that is what he fed them. The goldfish would quickly dart away when they were released, and the huge bass would quickly give chase. A basket of perch were being held in reserve at the top of the tank. They were going to be released after all the fish were fed, that way, the bigger fish would not gobble them right up.

Following the dive show, we were invited outside for a narrated tram tour, to see the ponds where all the magic takes place at the hatchery. I recommend sitting on the left side of the tram, as everyone on the left side, as we faced forward, was able to stand and view the goldfish feeding at the goldfish hatchery. The tram did not stop again, so everyone seated on the right did not have as good a view.

Midway through the tram tour, after you have viewed all the holding ponds, the narrator will offer to drop you off so you can walk back via the Wetlands Trail.
This was a very easy walk, and I highly recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity. Although water fountains were available along the way, if you have a small rolling cooler to carry cold water and drinks in, that would be beneficial. There is a cement walkway all the way back to the Nature Center.

The Wetlands Trail was nature at it's absolute finest.
We saw huge tadpoles, grasshoppers, butterflies, and numerous fish at each little puddle.

Along the trail are various venues such as a honeybee hut, with a working honeybee hive visible, but safely behind glass. There was a shaded hut extending out over a pond with various buttons available to push, so you could hear coyotes, tree frogs, owls, and numerous other creatures. This was set up in surround sound, and was very lifelike.

A very sophisticated duck blind will allow you to imagine yourself spending a morning hunting.
The only thing missing was your dog and your gun.

Speaking of guns, in several areas along the trail were various hunting stands.
These were designed to teach hunter safety classes,
which are now required to obtain a hunting license in the
State of Texas if you were born after September 1971.
If you've ever wondered what lurked
under the surface of the lake or pond
you were fishing in, or boating on,
this is the place to find out.

We were able to view several male species guarding their nests.
They circled round and round
and indention in the sand,
and quickly chased away
anyapproaching intruder.

Around every corner was a new view, and a
different perspective of the Texas Wetlands.
We thought this area of the wetlands resembled a Monet painting,
but there were so many choices, it was hard to pick a favorite.
Some areas resembled deep backwoods swamps,

and then there were beautiful waterfalls, cascading into a serene pool.
It was very easy to lose ourselves in the peacefulness.

Following the peacefulness of the Wetlands Trail,
we moved on to the Pitcher Plant Bog.

They are really quite beautiful,
even though they are carnivorous.

Included in the price of your entry fee to the park,
is an opportunity to fish in one of the casting ponds,
which are stocked with perch, bass, and catfish.

You will be provided with a rod and reel,
complete with bobber, and canned corn for bait.
You can see what you are fishing for,
which made it very exciting for the kids.

A view of the alligators made me very thankful they were behind glass.

If you have kids with you, bringing a supply of quarters for purchasing food to feed the catfish, is an absolute necessity.

We thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, and given the chance, we will definitely come back with the grandchildren.

There were several picnic areas set up around the facility.

Although there were snacks available in the gift shop,
we did not see any type of concession available.

If you do not bring a lunch with you,
I believe it will be necessary to drive into town.

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