Renovation completed at MDC's Roaring River Hatchery

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CASSVILLE, Mo. – Watching small rainbow trout swim in the raceways of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Roaring River Hatchery gives Paul Spurgeon as much joy these days as seeing large lunkers being reeled out of the nearby trout park.

Spurgeon, the manager of MDC’s hatchery at Roaring River State Park, has seen those raceways dry and devoid of fish for more than two years due to a $1.9 million renovation project at the hatchery. The completion of what essentially was a modernization of the facility will mean increased trout production and healthier fish. It also means that all the families who like to stroll along the raceways and see waters teeming with fish will have something to look at again.

“We appreciate the patience of the hatchery visitors who were frustrated at the longer-than-anticipated length of the project,” Spurgeon said. “It very much drove home to us how important the spring and the hatchery are to so many people. We received inquiries and messages from all over the United States from people who just wanted us to know how much they loved the hatchery, wished us well, and were longing to see the hatchery back in operation.”

When the renovation project began in September of 2018, it was estimated to be finished by either spring or early summer of 2019. However, several periods of high rainfall caused a number of delays before the project was finally finished in December.

Coupled with the challenges weather presented was the sheer magnitude of what the renovation entailed.

“There are many pipes, gate valves, and supply lines that regulate and supply water to the hatchery,” Spurgeon said. “Because the spring flow is constantly going up and down, these are essential and these were all failing due to age and corrosion.”

As part of the modernization, a traveling screen was added to clean the incoming water. A flow meter was added to measure the water used by the hatchery. Other updates included replacing old floodgates with new stainless steel gates that operate off of electric motors, which make it safer for staff. A concrete emergency spillway was also installed along with stainless steel control valves that are corrosion-proof. There were also upgrades to the hatchery’s electrical and alarm systems and repairs to screens at the raceways. The contractor for this project was Martin General Contractors of Eolia.

One thing that wasn’t shut down during the renovation was fishing at Roaring River State Park. Though the park’s main supplier of fish – Roaring River Hatchery – was not producing fish while construction was underway, plenty of angling pleasure was still to be found at the state park. That’s because trout were supplied by MDC’s Montauk Hatchery and Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery.

Although fishing attracts more than 100,000 anglers to Roaring River each year, Spurgeon said many others come just to get a view of the large number of trout swimming in the raceway, and to feed those fish. Not all the raceways have water and trout in them yet, but Spurgeon said that time is coming.

“Although the hatchery is now fully back in operation, it will take a few months to see all the pools full of fish as fry come out of the hatchery building and other hatcheries haul in new fish.”

Roaring River’s hatchery office is open until 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and the hatchery grounds are open until 10 p.m. each day. More about trout fishing at Roaring River and other fishing opportunities around the state can be found at