With a swish of its tail, a salmon jumps more than 20 steps – one at a time – to the top of the Nimbus Fish Hatchery ladder Monday as the annual fall migration takes place. Below left, Nikolai Andryhoushkin of Sacramento photographs the event, vital to the survival of salmon and steelhead in the lower American River.
Once they make their way up the fish ladder, the salmon are sorted and spawned on a table. An average salmon female has more than 5,000 eggs (a single pink egg rests among pebbles, below right). The eggs are housed in the spawning building and the fish are raised until they are 4 to 6 inches long before being released. Steelhead are also raised at the hatchery, just off Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova.
Since 1958, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery has been successfully providing mitigation for the loss of natural fish habitat in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Although the fish ladder is quiet during other times of the year, there are hands-on activities for families all year long as they can feed the fish in the various ‘nursery” tanks as they tour the center. Children can follow the growth of the fish from egg to fingerling. In mid-October, the hatchery hosts the annual American River Salmon Festival which offers music, art, food, and recreation with an emphasis on providing education on the life of the Pacific Salmon.
The Visitor Center is open everyday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and offers displays and tours. It is located at Hazel Avenue in Rancho Cordova, just off Highway 50. It is also an easy stop from the American River Bike Trail which runs adjacent to the hatchery.