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Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery

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Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery Visitor Center

Tacoma Power's rebuilt Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery includes an award-winning education center. Inside the Visitor Center, interactive displays show a salmon's journey through life, exploring the 5 "Hs" of a salmon's life cycle - hatchery, hydropower, harvest, habitat and high seas.

Winter hours of the Visitor Center:

Oct. 1 – Nov. 15

  • 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday – Sunday

Nov. 16 – June 15

  • 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday – Friday
  • 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Saturday & Sunday

During daylight hours, take an outdoor, self-guided tour of the hatchery areas open to the public.

Some of the hands-on games you can play at the Visitor Center: 

  • Lose Your Marbles – Dump a pail of “salmon eggs” into a simulated stream, then guide them around the room on their journey from the hatchery to the ocean and back.
  • Heft-a-Salmon – Lift fiberglass salmon weighing between 1.7 ounces and 17 pounds to get a sense of their size.
  • Sort the Fish – When a fish appears on the screen, decide if it is a hatchery or wild-born salmon or steelhead.   

Getting to the Salmon Hatchery Visitor Center & Barrier Dam Boat Launch
From Interstate 5, take Highway 12 East about 12 miles. Turn right on Fuller Road. Continue until the "T" intersection and turn left on Spencer Road. Stay right at the "Y." Take the second left into the Visitor Center parking lot, or drive straight to get to the Barrier Dam boat launch and fishing area.

Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery
199 Salmon Ln.
Salkum, WA 98582

Barrier Dam Boat Launch
279 Barrier Dam Ln.
Salkum, WA 98582

Hatchery Rebuild

Tacoma Power rebuilt the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery in 2010 with two goals in mind:

  • To more closely mimic nature during the early life stages of hatchery fish
  • To boost the number of adults that return


As we reconstructed the facility, we focused on both the quality and quantity of fish, as emphasized by the federal license for the Cowlitz River Hydroelectric Project. The salmon hatchery produces nearly 13 million fish each year, including about 1.3 million spring Chinook, 5.0 million fall Chinook and 2.4 million coho salmon.

Special design features of the hatchery include:

• a system that allows young fish to swim into the river when they are ready to migrate downstream

• re-designed raceways, or pools, that reduce the risk of disease for young fish

• sorting facilities that are more efficient for adult fish and for the employees who sort them

• a re-circulating water treatment system that fine-tunes the water temperature to more closely match the river’s temperature


About the Hatchery

The hatchery began operating in 1968 when Mossyrock Dam was completed. At the time, it was the largest salmon hatchery in the world.

Tacoma Power built and maintains the salmon hatchery and provides funds to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) for staffing and operation. Tacoma Power employees use fish trucks to transport fish upstream and allow them to spawn in the upper Cowlitz Basin.

The Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, in conjunction with the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery, supply fish for the restoration effort in the upper river while continuing to support existing fishery programs downstream.

As juvenile fish begin their downstream journey from the upper watershed, they are collected at Lewis County Public Utility District's Cowlitz Falls Dam, the uppermost dam on the Cowlitz River. Tacoma Power transports the fish to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery where they are placed in large stress relief ponds. After acclimating, the fish are released into the river to continue their trip to the ocean.


Barrier Dam

The Barrier Dam sits next to the salmon hatchery. This low dam diverts all upriver migrating adult fish to a fish ladder. The fish ladder leads to a separating station where fish are sorted by species. Some of the fish are retained at the hatchery to produce the next generation of salmon. Tacoma Power employees transport others to spawning areas in the Tilton, Cispus and upper Cowlitz Rivers.

Barrier Dam Boat Launch
The Barrier Dam boat launch is located near the hatchery. You’ll find a large parking lot, vault toilets and a boat launch provided free of charge by Tacoma Power. An ADA-accessible fishing ramp allows wheelchair-bound and mobility-impaired anglers to fish at various river elevations.