The Prairie Creek Fish Hatchery near Orick was one of the first local hatcheries developed in California to improve sport and commercial fishing. Located on land historically and currently stewarded by the Yurok Tribe, it was constructed in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) on the 62-acre site of a previous hatchery.
The WPA was formed as part of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, during the Great Depression. The program ultimately provided work to more than 8.5 million skilled and unskilled Americans in poverty. In the eight years of the program’s existence, WPA members completed 1.4 million public projects. At Prairie Creek, WPA members constructed hatchery ponds, five water tanks, a pipeline, superintendent’s house, assistant’s house, sidewalk, garage shop, and shed.
The hatchery is notable for its provision of housing for workers, dependence on simple yet effective technology that relied minimally on power, and for being funded primarily through fishing licenses and related fees. After 56 years in operation, the hatchery closed in 1992. The site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Given that the hatchery closed operations only twenty years ago, many local residents still carry memories of visiting the site during their grade school field trips!
In 2022 HistoriCorps volunteers gave the buildings at Prairie Creek Fish Hatchery a fresh coat (or two) of paint, revamped collapsing porches, and fixed the siding on a number of the buildings. This year we’re headed back to improve various support structures and continue our work from last season on the remaining porches. If coastal California during peak season suits your schedule, then Prairie Creek Fish Hatchery might want to be on the top of your list.
Join us this summer in the mystical Red Wood Forests of Northern California and preserve a slice of California Department Fish and Game’s coveted history!