Great (Local) Destinations: Oden State Fish Hatchery a Fun, Educational Place

About nine miles northeast of Petoskey is a great bicycling destination for the whole family. A day trip to Oden State Fish Hatchery, 3377 U.S. 31, can be fun and educational for everyone.

Though the hatchery’s official visitors center and replica fish transportation rail car are currently closed due to the pandemic, the grounds, ponds and other features are still open to the public.

The Oden hatchery is located just off the North Western State Trail between Petoskey and Alanson. That means the entire trip can be made via bicycle, since the Little Traverse Wheelway connects directly to the North Western State Trail near the U.S. 31/M119 intersection.

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A bike rack and lots of picnic tables are available to Oden State Fish Hatchery visitors.

The ride is very flat and rolls over pavement that is 99 percent smooth, though there are a few patches of unpaved trail near Petoskey.

The 18-mile roundtrip from Petoskey to Oden offers a moderate workout with plenty of places to stop, including a nice platform at Round Lake.

Although I ride from Petoskey, there are other places to park and ride in order to make a shorter ride. For example, one could take their bike to Petoskey State Park or Spring Lake Park and ride from there, drastically reducing the roundtrip mileage.

Once at the hatchery, hours can be spent looking around and learning about the hatchery, established in 1920. Today, Oden is one of six state fish hatcheries operating in Michigan. It specializes in brown and rainbow trout production for inland lakes and the Great Lakes.

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The hatchery features a lush array of native wildflowers and other interesting flora and fauna.

I’ve never taken a guided tour at Oden, though individual and group tours are available by appointment. My visits usually include me staying on my bike most of the time, looking at stuff and admiring the White Cedar swamp and corresponding nature trail.

The underground viewing chamber is my favorite part of the place. This concrete and glass bunker is positioned next to a natural creek. Two large, glass windows give visitors a fish eye perspective as the stream flows by, and along with it a few varieties of trout. It’s not uncommon to see rainbow and brown trout in all sizes.

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The subterranean viewing chamber gives visitors a look at fish in their native habitat.

A variety of interpretative facilities and trails are available, including two large, crystal-clear ponds in which healthy trout live. Fish food dispensers (25 cents for a handful) are located nearby so people can feed the active fish. Kids love that.

Another interesting aspect of the Oden hatchery is the replica fish transportation rail car, which is what passing motorists on U.S. 31 probably notice the most. Inside the car is a walk-through museum that details – via interpretative displays and artifacts – the fish stocking practices of decades past.

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A nature trail winds through part of the hatchery property, which is owned and operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Seasonal programming is featured throughout the hatchery’s open season, which lasts from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Again, schedules are and will likely continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To find out more information about Oden State Fish Hatchery and other Michigan hatcheries, click here.

(All photos by Eric Cox. All rights reserved.)

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