A major renovation is underway at the Bennett Springs Fish Hatchery

LEBANON, Mo. (KY3/Mo. Dept. of Conservation press release) – Visitors to Bennett Spring State Park will soon notice the sights and sounds of heavy machinery at work in the park. This work is the first phase of a renovation project at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Bennett Spring Hatchery that will ensure that one of Missouri’s most popular trout parks remains a premier destination for family fishing fun.

MDC is working with HDR Engineering Inc. on a multi-year, $20 million project that will repair or replace portions of the hatchery’s aging infrastructure. This project will include new technologies that will improve fish production and will repair or replace parts of the hatchery that are either no longer working or are working poorly due to age.

Phase I of the project is ongoing and includes several activities in the park that are part of field investigations. Projects in this phase include surveying, flow monitoring, geotechnical surveys, locating utility lines and development of a groundwater test well.

What visitors to Bennett Spring will notice most during this early stage is machine noise and periodic restricted access to some parts of the park. MDC’s consultant will drill a groundwater test well at the north end of the hatchery (near Bennett Spring State Park Lodge). During drilling and well testing activities, the park road to the campground will be restricted to one lane but will remain open to through traffic. Drilling activities have already begun and will be completed by the end of January. Well testing follows the drilling process and is scheduled to be completed in February.

After the field investigations are completed, the consultant will begin the design in Phase II. This phase will have limited impact on state park activity.

Phase III will be the construction phase. Suggested improvements for the hatchery are a new inlet structure, reconstruction of some channels, pipe improvements and numerous upgrades that will protect the hatchery from flood events and improve fish production ability. The MDC hatchery office, shop and feed storage facilities will also be upgraded.

The construction phase is scheduled to begin in 2023 and is expected to last two years. There may be temporary restrictions on fishing access in parts of the creek during construction. The MDC will work with Bennett Spring State Park staff to share with the public the impact construction may have on the park.

“These renovations will breathe new life into our aging hatchery, improve safety for hatchery staff and provide more security for our trout,” said MDC Bennett Spring Hatchery Manager Ben Havens. “The use of new technology will allow us to raise high quality fish that the public can enjoy for many years to come.”

When the construction phase begins, the hatchery will not be in operation. Available fish will be moved to the MDC hatcheries in Shepherd of the Hills, Montauk and Roaring River during this time. Although the hatchery is closed during the construction phase of the renovation project, anglers will not see any changes to existing seasons. Fish shipped from other MDC hatcheries are stored at Bennett Spring daily during the regular season. The winter catch-and-release season will not be affected.

“The hatchery crew is very committed to providing a quality fishing experience for all visitors to Bennett Spring and we greatly appreciate the support of the public as we work on these improvements to establish Bennett Spring as a premier trout fishing destination expand,” said Havens.

Up to a million trout are raised from egg to seedling annually at the Bennett Spring Hatchery, and the hatchery stocks 350,000 12 ½-inches in the creek each season. (Some of the fish raised at the hatchery are raised elsewhere in the state.) However, the benefits of these improvements extend beyond improving fish production processes at Bennett Spring Hatchery. To understand the true meaning of the infrastructure improvements, consider the more than 140,000 people who fish at Bennett Spring each year, the thousands of visitors the park receives, and the economic impact all of these activities have in terms of money spent on meals, shelter, gas, etc. Data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service shows that money spent on trout fishing in Missouri generates more than $187 million in economic impact each year.

Trout fishing at Bennett Spring has a history dating back to the early 1900’s. MDC manages the hatchery and trout fishery at Bennett Spring State Park. The state park facilities are managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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