306 Hatchery Road, East Orland
In 1871, biologist Charles Atkins, concerned with declining numbers of Atlantic salmon and other fish, established Craig Brook Station at the site of a former sawmill on the shore of Alamoosook Lake. In 1889, the facility became the first federal fish hatchery to raise sea-run Atlantic salmon. Today, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Hatcheries at Craig Brook and nearby Green Lake continue to support the recovery of endangered Atlantic salmon in Maine, as told through the visitor center, museum, tours, and presentations. Nature trails connect to the adjacent Great Pond Mountain Wildlands.
207.469.6701 x215 | www.fws.gov/northeast/craigbrook
Year-round. Parking. Restrooms. Accessible. Water access. Picnic area. Trails. Interpretive signs.
Fish hatcheries emerged in the late nineteenth century in response to declining fish populations nationwide. In New England, such declines were noted as early as the 1810s. Fisheries managers realized that the chances of success would improve if they used New England fish for propagation.
In 1867, the Maine Legislature appointed Nathan W. Foster and Charles G. Atkins as Commissioners of Fisheries, and charged them with surveying the state’s rivers to determine needs for fishways and fish propagation. Atkins and Foster issued their first report on the condition of Maine rivers in 1868, attributing the near extinction of fish in many streams to impassable dams, along with overfishing and water pollution.
A few years later, the Fishery Commissioners of Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut asked Atkins to locate a suitable site for raising Atlantic salmon.
Atkins located a brook which flowed out of Craig Pond in East Orland, and leased the land from property owners Elisha Carr and David Dodge in 1871. He bought adult salmon from the commercial fishermen on the Penobscot River for transport to the new hatchery. Atkins developed “salmon cars,” special vessels for transporting the fish made of wooden boats with 100 holes drilled in the sides. The adults were spawned and the eggs incubated on plates of window glass in the basement of an old mill near the mouth of the brook. The hatchery was moved briefly to Silver Lake, near Bucksport, but operations returned to Craig Brook in 1879, where they have continued ever since in the nation’s oldest federal fish hatchery.
Sources & Links
Anonymous. 1874. Collecting salmon spawn in Maine. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, June. [PDF]
Baum, Ed. 1997. Maine Atlantic Salmon: A National Treasure. Hamden, ME: Atlantic Salmon Unlimited.
Locke, David O. 1969. A century of fish culture in Maine. Maine Fish and Game Magazine.
Moring, John R. 2000. The creation of the first public salmon hatchery in the United States. Fisheries 25(7):6-12.