Booth Society Promotes Unique South Dakota Fishery Through Education, Volunteers and Retail

By Amanda Keith posted 03-21-2018 03:53 PM


HatcheryBuilding.jpgThe D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives is one of the oldest fish hatcheries in the country.
Pictured here are raceways used for propogating trout and the original hatchery building in the background.

The D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in Spearfish, SD hatchery was constructed in 1896 to propagate, stock and establish trout populations in the Black Hills of South Dakota and in Wyoming and Montana. Each year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services releases about 40,000 trout into tribal waters to provide recreational fishing opportunities and and positive economic impact for years to come.

The site also doubles as the national archive for 72 fish hatcheries across the country and stores more than 1.7 million items, including historical records, equipment, and fishery tools.

As a nonprofit partner, the Booth Society helps tell the story of this unique, 10-acre public land through visitor services, volunteer programs and through providing learning opportunities for people of all ages.

According to the Booth Society’s Executive Director, Karen Holzer, one of the most interesting aspects of this site is the interaction between generations of visitors.

“Visitors who’ve been coming for decades are bringing their grandchildren to be able to share a similar experience with them,” Holzer said.

Families, especially those who live in the Spearfish community, come to the hatchery to experience the outdoors and interact with wildlife. The hatchery is open 365-days a year and is free to visit.

“One of the best ways kids interact with wildlife is by feeding the trout,” Holzer said. “They toss a handful of feed into the water and watch the fish scramble for their lunch.” Visitors can also view the trout in ponds in underwater viewing areas, as shown below.

UnderwaterViewing.jpgA school group views rainbow and brown trout through an underwater viewing area near the trout ponds.

The Booth Society Leads Programs to Engage Youth with Wildlife and the Hatchery

Holzer also explained that the nonprofit leads programs to help visitors understand the purpose of the hatchery and to enjoy what it has to offer.

“As the Friends Group for the hatchery, we lead several programs for youth, including education tours for school groups, the South Dakota Junior Duck Stamp Contest and we manage a summer volunteer program called Hatchery Helpers.”

The South Dakota Junior Duck Stamp Contest, she explained, is a national U.S. Fish and Wildlife program that encourages students to study North American waterfowl and submit artwork depicting a waterfowl species. In South Dakota, the Friends Group promotes and judges artwork submissions from students to be considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the national level for a winning stamp design.

“This contest is an excellent example of interaction between a land management agency and a friends group,” Holzer said. The nonprofit administers the program statewide in assistance to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, sponsors educational activities at the state awards ceremony and promotes the South Dakota winners through social media.

The funds raised through the sales of the Duck Stamp (at $5 per stamp) directly support education programs at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sites.

The Booth Society’s Hatchery Helpers program provides opportunities for middle-school students for three-week sessions each summer. Volunteers and staff lead students on minor maintenance projects at the hatchery and teach them about conservation. Last year, the Booth Society oversaw 40 students through the program to volunteer for projects such as invasive plant removal and trail maintenance.

HatcheryHelpers.jpgHatchery Helpers assist with cleaning the raceways where trout species are propogated at the hatchery.

Supporting the Hatchery through Site-Specific Retail

In addition to education and volunteer programs, the Booth Society also manages the Pond Gift Shop to sell interpretive products to visitors. The funds raised from the sales go directly to support the hatchery and the nonprofit’s mission to enhance visitor services. Gift Shop Manager Nancy Cole explained that the shop offers a wide variety of items for families and that the nonprofit focuses on selling site-specific items.

“We sell products that help people connect with the hatchery and we make sure to include items that are useful even in our own education programs,” Cole said.

Their trout plush, for example, are specific to the species propogated at the hatchery and are often used in the nonprofit’s educational displays and presentations.

TroutDisplay.jpgRainbow, brown and brook trout on display for a community event. The plush trout are sold in the Pond Gift Shop.

Hatchery Serves as a Gem for People of Spearfish, SD

The D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives welcome 160,000 visitors each year who come to see the trout, learn about the hatchery’s history and view wildlife that are drawn to the resources of this site.

“This hatchery and the archives are part of the community of Spearfish,” Holzer said. She also stated her appreciation for the community and local businesses who have committed time and effort to support the hatchery.

“Each year, we have two major fundraising events sponsored by businesses and organizations with proceeds benefiting the hatchery and our education programs. The 5K Black Hills Beer Run and our six-week, outdoor acoustic concert series in the city park are exceptional events thanks to the Spearfish community,” she said.

According to the hatchery’s Superintendent Carlos R. Martinez, the Booth Society’s partnership is essential to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to the Spearfish community:

“Not only does the Booth Society promote the value and benefit of the facility, they raise approximately $160,000 for the hatchery each year and contribute thousands of volunteer hours. The organization is vital for the visitor services and public outreach programs at the D.C. Booth,” he said.

To learn more about the Booth Society, visit their website at

Trout.jpgEach year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery staff stock around 40,000 trout into local tribal waters.