Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery not only raises fish, it also offers a variety of recreational opportunities for the public with no entrance fee. Photo courtesy of 101HighlandLakes.com

Go birding, hiking, biking, and more at Inks Dam fish hatchery

There’s a lot more at Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery than what the name implies, and it’s open to the public 365 days a year with no entrance fee. 

Visitors will find hiking-and-biking trails, wildlife viewing areas, shaded picnic tables, places to fish, and a plethora of scenic spots to take photos, pick up a paintbrush, or do nothing at all but be at one with nature. 

Hatchery operations take up only 30 of the 100 acres, leaving 70 acres for exploring. 

Take a short walk from the visitors parking lot to the covered bird blind, one of the area’s top birding spots. Recent sightings, according to reports include the white-eyed vireo, Eastern bluebird, and black-capped vireo. Over 256 species of birds were spotted in Burnet County in 2022, so you’re bound to spy more than a few winged creatures. Pack binoculars and a good camera.

Don’t leave your rod and reel at home. A pier on Lake LBJ provides great fishing. You can also launch your non-motorized boat nearby. Occasionally, the hatchery will host a free fishing day at one of its holding ponds, but otherwise, the ponds are off-limits to angling. 

To fully appreciate the natural beauty here, take one or more of the five trails. The Overlook Trail is the most strenuous, but the gain is worth the pain as you ascend the granite outcropping to 360-degree views of Burnet and Llano counties. 

Other trails take you along the shores of Lake LBJ, through trees and native plants, past wet weather creeks, or alongside the hatchery’s holding ponds and original structures from the 1930s. 

Cap off your time here with a picnic lunch in the shade of mature pecan trees. Just keep an eye on your watch: The hatchery locks the gates at 3:30 p.m. sharp.

Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was founded in 1938 with the help of then-U.S. Rep. Lyndon B. Johnson. The National Youth Administration built the structures. The facility opened in 1940, initially supplying fish to stock the Highland Lakes, many of whose dams were still under construction. Nowadays, the hatchery raises channel catfish and freshwater mussels, maintains a captive population of the endangered creek gambusia, and plays host to thousands of nature-loving guests.

Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery is located at 345 Clay Young Road, Burnet, TX 78611. It is open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 512-793-2474 or visit fws.gov/fish-hatchery/inks-dam.

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