This hatchery near the headwaters of Tonto Creek beneath the Mogollon Rim in the Tonto National Forest is located approximately 21 miles east of Payson off of Highway 260. Turn north off SR 260 at the signed road near Kohl’s Ranch Resort and travel four miles to end of road. The road is paved all the way to the facility. The last five miles are along a narrow double-lane road with a minimum 7-percent grade in some sections that can be snow covered at times during the winter. Under normal conditions, the roads are clear within 48 hours of a storm.
Tonto Creek Hatchery is located on lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service and has been in operation since 1937. The hatchery was renovated in 1993 to modernize operations and produces and stocks approximately 140,000 catchable size rainbow trout each year, along with a smaller number of brook trout. Tonto Creek also hatches and annually raises approximately 100,000 native Apache trout to fingerling size before they are transferred to the Silver Creek Hatchery for grow out to catchable size. Apache trout eggs are provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery).
In 1990, the devastating Dude Fire encircled the hatchery but burned only one building down. The watershed has stabilized and is now recovering from the fire. Tonto Creek Hatchery has a visitor center, public restrooms, and a show pond where visitors can glimpse and feed trophy-sized trout. There is camping nearby along Tonto Creek and several hiking trails in the immediate area. Visitors may also go fishing in Tonto Creek downstream of the hatchery.
This facility is the most visited of the hatcheries and it is not uncommon to have 400-500 visitors daily during the summer months. There are public restrooms available for use. Please tread lightly and remove your trash when you depart the hatchery.
Phone Number and Hours of Operation: 928-478-4200. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 7 days a week except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Please Note: We frequently have closures due to local weather and road conditions. Please contact us by phone and verify with one of our employees if closures exist due to local conditions.
Tonto Creek Hatchery FAQs
Q. How many and what kind of fish are in the tanks?
A. 12,000 per unit (catchable size ~ 9.5 inches) and the type of fish vary from year to year but for the most part they are rainbow trout.
Q. When do you stock the fish and where?
A. The stocking season starts in April depending on water and road conditions and continues through September. The local creeks and rivers as well as Woods Canyon Lake are stocked every week. Occasionally we do travel to Lees Ferry and in the White Mountains.
Q. How long do we keep them here at the hatchery?
A. Catchable fish remain on station for about 15 months, but about two million are stocked out as fingerlings in the fall. Trout are cold-blooded animals and growth is depended upon the ambient water temperature. We expect the fish to grow 0.6 of an inch per 30 days.
Q. How many employees work here?
A. Tonto Creek Hatchery operates with four full-time employees and hires an intern during the summer. We also use a volunteer host during the summer to conduct tours and help out when needed.
Q. Where does the water come from?
A. The water comes from a spring located in the canyon north of the hatchery. The water is captured and piped via gravity flow to a T-cup filter and then it passes through an aeration tower to de-gas and re-aerate before it enters the hatchery building.
Q. What do you do with the big fish in the show pond?
A. They are here for the visiting public to enjoy and are transported in a 600-gallon show tank to schools and wildlife fairs throughout the state.
Updated April 2010