Missouri’s largest trout-rearing facility occupies 155 acres in the southwestern portion of the state, just south of Branson. Surrounded by Ozark forest and woodlands, Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery and Conservation Center is Missouri’s primary source of rainbow and brown trout.
The hatchery produces approximately 1.2 million trout annually. About 80 percent are stocked in nearby Lake Taneycomo, one of Missouri’s most popular fishing destinations, while the remainder help stock other trout-management areas statewide.
Along with the hatchery, Shepherd of the Hills includes a conservation center where visitors can learn about trout culture from spawning to release, aquatic life, fishing, and MDC’s role in aquatic resource management. Free of charge and open year-round, the conservation center features a 3,500-gallon aquarium, a short video about raising trout and interactive displays about local fish, forests and wildlife.
To truly understand the hatchery’s workings, you have to tour it. Self-guided tours are available year-round, along with guided tours at four different times on weekdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. More than 250,000 people visit the hatchery each year.
Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery offers opportunities for trout fishing and hiking. Four trails, three less than a half-mile and one 1.6 miles long, lead hikers through the hatchery’s surrounding woodlands for an inside look at the Ozark landscape.
Three special events make Shepherd of the Hills a family vacation destination throughout the year. Vulture Venture, an annual event that occurs in late February, features one of nature’s unsung heroes: the vulture. Vulture Venture attendees can view a live turkey vulture and one of Missouri’s largest winter vulture roosts.
The hatchery and conservation center celebrate Earth Day with opportunities to learn what people can do, not only to reduce, reuse and recycle, but also to promote native landscaping, avoid introducing exotic species and use water resources wisely. This April event features interactive stations and displays along with free trees for visitors to plant.
Shepherd of the Hills’ Family Fishing Day each June gives families a chance to fish in a stocked pond on Missouri’s Free Fishing Weekend as well as learn about aquatic environments and fishing skills.
Shepherd of the Hills is located on Highway 165, 4 miles south of Branson. For more information, visit the website listed below.
—Rebecca Maples, photo by David Stonner
Recreation opportunities: Bird watching, fishing, seasonal hatchery tours, hiking, special events
Unique features: Shepherd of the Hills features Missouri’s largest trout hatchery and various opportunities to learn about trout management, fishing, and aquatic environments.
For More Information: Call 417-334-4865 ext. 0 or visit mdc.mo.gov/2853
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler