Feeding the Fish at the Historic DC Booth Fish Hatchery, Spearfish, South Dakota

When I attended Black Hills State University, one of my favorite quick afternoon getaways was a trip to the DC Booth Fish Hatchery. Between my memories of visiting and Will’s love of fish, stopping at the fish hatchery was high on our list of priorities while we were in the Black Hills.

During our weeklong stay in the Hills, we visited the hatchery twice. It was that much fun. In our almost year of travels, I do not think we have returned to the same activity more than once, so that should say something.

On our first trip, we arrived just after the shop and most of the buildings on the premises closed, so we walked around the grounds, read the plaques along the path, and exchanged lots of quarters for fish food. On our second trip, we made sure to arrive before the shop closed, so we could get a sticker for our door and a big bag of fish food.

Will truly enjoyed the history of the fish hatchery, while Bird was delighted with feeding the fish and ducks. However, the main attraction, in my opinion, is walking down some steps where you can watch the fish from below. The fish in this section of the hatchery are large and old, some are 7 or 8 years old, and it is impressive watching these fish swim right in front of your eyes. On both trips, Bird found herself a spot where she could sit and watch, while Will stood right up close to the glass to get a good view. The real treat for me was going down on our second visit and finding the glass freshly clean. I honestly do not think I had ever visited with clean glass, and it made such a difference!

Both of our visits to Spearfish were special for me beyond visiting the fish hatchery. It was so much fun showing Will around the town where I spent 4.5 very important years of my life. It was here that I found my passion for writing and editing and the confidence that I could make it into a career. I made many lifelong friendships here and outgrew others. I had amazing professors who inspired me to learn about myself and the broader world in ways in which I had not been challenged before. My time there was not always full of happiness and rainbows, but it certainly played a part in shaping who I am and set me on my life’s path.

Even though our first trip ran a little later in the evening than we had planned, we opted to take the longer road back to our campground so that we could drive through Spearfish Canyon. It is one of my favorite drives and another of my frequent escapes in my college years. A drive through the canyon is not complete, however, without a stop a Roughlock Falls. So as the sun started to set and Bird’s bedtime loomed ever nearer, we drove down the dirt road to the trail and explored the beautiful falls.

Our trip to Spearfish is one of several stops where I have felt or will feel that I am coming full circle. Places where I have said my goodbyes and am now returning as a different, better person with my family in tow. Places where I dreamt I would someday have this family and this love. Places where I get to see things from a new perspective.

Seeing the joy on Bird’s face as she fed the fish or heard the waterfalls brought a new appreciation to these places that already had such a fond place in my heart. And after our 2 visits to the fish hatchery, I have to agree with Will that spending a quarter on a handful of fish food is about the best way possible to spend it.

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