Commission. That same year, the State Park Board came into existence and was charged with administering Missouri’s state parks. As were the other state hatcheries, the trout hatchery at Roaring River was administered by the Department of Conservation. In 1974 during a reorganization of state government, the Department of Natural Resources was formed and took on the responsibility of administering the state parks, but the Department of Conservation continued to run the hatchery.
In May 1938, a flood severely damaged Roaring River’s hatchery. A cloudburst caused the water to rise 10–12 feet and sweep down the valley above the spring. The high water washed out the foundation of the hatchery building and raceways and caused the release of around 60,000 trout into the river. Ironically, many people reported that fishing had never been better.
The Department of Conservation, the State Park Board, the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps worked together to rebuild the hatchery and repair other damage in the park. Because the hatchery had been seriously damaged twice in the previous 11 years, they rebuilt the hatchery on higher ground.
Since 1938, no fish or hatchery buildings have been lost due to high water.
Before the Civilian Conservation Corps closed their camp in October 1939 and moved the company to General Pershing State Park, they built the present-day stone hatchery buildings and 22 rock-capped pools. Six additional raceways were constructed in 1940 by the Work Projects Administration. This gave the hatchery 30 outside pools.
In addition to keeping pace with local fishing demands, Roaring River Hatchery began to set the trend in trout-rearing practices. The hatchery originally made its own trout feed of ground wheat and liver that was cooked into a mush, but the hatchery worked with the Purina Company in the late 1950s to develop the world’s first nutritionally complete dry feed for trout.
The ninth formula they tested at Roaring River did much better than the liver mix (the magic ingredient was vitamin C). The liver and wheat mixture required 6 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of trout. By 1963 the commercial dry product they used only required 2 pounds per pound of trout—a huge step forward in the science of trout production.
In 1961 the Department of Conservation built more raceways and added a pump that would bring water from the river when the flow was low. That brought the number of pools the hatchery had to its current number of 40.
There have been many periods of low water over the years. As recently as 2004 and many times in previous years, fish had to be moved out of Roaring River to be held at other hatcheries due to lack of water. A liquid oxygen system installed in 2006 enables the hatchery to raise fish with less water and greatly lessens the need to find other locations for the trout during low water.
Through the years many of the aging Civilian Conservation Corps-built structures developed problems. The bridge to the hatchery cracked, and portions were close to falling into the river. The dam around the spring pool developed serious leaks causing erosion of the material underneath the walkway. The falls structures adjacent to the river eroded and were in danger of failing.
In 2001 and 2006, projects carried out by the Department of Conservation with funds from MDC, the Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Sport Fish Restoration Program corrected these problems and added a great deal of disabled-user access to the stream adjacent to the hatchery.
In 2009, the Department of Natural Resources funded a project that replaced eroded material under the pavers on top of the spring pool dam and replaced degraded stones on the structure with stone harvested from the park. These improvements will result in the hatchery and the beautiful Civilian Conservation Corps work associated with it lasting many more years.
Records don’t reveal how many trout were produced during the hatchery’s first 32 years of existence, but in the past 68 years more than 11 million trout have been raised at Roaring River Hatchery. These millions of fish have brought generations of anglers and their families to Roaring River and have created at least as many lasting memories.