Juneau Salmon Hatchery Review: Is It Worth It?

If you’re ever in Juneau, Alaska, you won’t want to leave without first having some kind of salmon experience.

One of the best ways to have a memorable salmon encounter is to head to DIPAC’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery.

Below I will tell you everything you need to know to spend a great visit and decide if it is worth it.

What is the Juneau Salmon Hatchery?

The Juneau Salmon Hatchery is officially known as the “DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery,” and is one of the most interesting tourist attractions in Juneau, Alaska.

It’s a place where you can get up close to thousands of salmon and learn about this bubbling hatchery that is responsible for raising 130 million chum, king and coho salmon each year.

The hatchery is open regularly during the summer months, from May to September.

Hours are usually 10am to 5pm or 6pm depending on the day of the week, but be sure to confirm before you visit.

You can visit during the winter, but you’ll need to make an appointment first.

The site is quite small and you don’t need much time to visit it properly. 45 minutes to an hour may be all you need.

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Where is the salmon farm?

The salmon farm is located at: 2697 Canal Dr, Juneau, AK 99801.

From the cruise terminal area, it should take around 10 minutes to get there by car or taxi.

This is only a couple of minutes from Salmon Bake, so you can always think about visiting them together, especially since they complement each other so well.

DIPAC Juneau Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

The Juneau Salmon Hatchery Experience

As soon as you walk in, head to a glass window where you can have a close encounter with these salmon.

When I visited, this was the first time I had been able to see salmon up close and I thought it was quite a fascinating sight.

DIPAC Juneau Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

After that, head towards the entrance on the raised walkway where you may meet a group congregating for a little introduction to the hatchery.

If you run into this in the middle of the presentation, you can hang out and start another one shortly after it ends.

Your guides will give you some background on the operations here and how they work to enhance the opportunity for commercial, sport and subsistence fishing.

Officially your mission is:

sustain and enhance the valuable salmon resources of the State of Alaska for the economic, social, and cultural benefit of all citizens, and promote public understanding of Alaska’s salmon resources and salmon fisheries through research, education and tourism.

There is a debate about whether or not hatcheries are positive, but I don’t know enough about that to offer any kind of meaningful opinion.

I just know that people feel strongly on both sides of the debate.

Regardless, while you’re on the walkway, you’ll have some great views, including a good look at the salmon ladder.

This is a 450 foot long “ladder” that simulates a flowing stream for salmon to swim through. I guess it also helps trigger their spawning instincts.

It’s one of those unique things where you could spend your whole life not even knowing it exists, so it’s great to experience it at least once.

DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Salmon Ladder

The water flows into the channel and is funneled through these narrow rectangular slots, which is how some of the salmon come up.

When we visited in late July, the ladder was full of adult salmon struggling against the current.

DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Salmon Ladder

At the base of the ladder, the salmon came in from the channel amidst the whitewater chaos.

Seeing dozens and dozens of these fish propel themselves over rocks really gave me an idea of ​​the type of propulsion built into these creatures.

The beak salmon run is quite a sight to behold.

DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Salmon Ladder

At the bottom of the stairs, the ponds into which the salmon make their way were filled to the brim.

DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Salmon Ladder

After reviewing them, you can enter and purchase your admission ticket.

I was interested in doing the full tour but it wasn’t offered during our visit so we had to settle for the standard ticket.

To begin the paid portion of our visit, we decided to head to the other building where they house all of the “baby” salmon.

Here, you’ll see tens of thousands of salmon during the right time of year. Watching them move in these dark, ghostly clouds back and forth was a mesmerizing sight.

DIPAC Juneau Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

These minnows will stay here until they get a little bigger and then they will be moved to one of the saltwater net pens outside.

They are released from those pens in late spring to early summer and then head out into the open ocean where they will try to beat the odds for a few years.

Some even swim to Japan!

Eventually, they will return to this exact spot, which is what we witnessed during our visit.

The salmon are then separated based on their species and the hatchery begins the process of collecting and fertilizing the eggs, resulting in millions of fertilized eggs that will develop in the dark hatchery.

DIPAC Juneau Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

After seeing these little salmon, we spend a few minutes on the deck, which is also the highlight of the experience, especially if you are interested in wildlife viewing.

From the deck, we were able to see several bald eagles.

If you’ve never been to Juneau before, especially this particular area in Juneau, you might be surprised to see how common bald eagles are.

You can find them on the shore, in the sky, and even on utility poles.

In fact, I had never seen a bald eagle before, so I got more sightings than I imagined during our stay.

Look out into the water and you might see some harbor seals.

The seals were busy catching salmon that were returning to the salmon ladder. I’m sure your stomachs remain full this time of year due to the endless seafood buffet that is open for business.

DIPAC Seal Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau

From there, we venture inside the visitor center, where there are some exhibits worth checking out, including a beautiful stuffed brown bear.

The hatchery houses a small aquarium that features a variety of tanks and exhibits.

It’s compact, but some of the marine life is really cool.

One tank featured those monster-sized starfish that cling to rocky Alaskan shores.

This was great because we saw so many of them from afar on our Glacier Bay boat tour a few days earlier.

A giant crab inside the tank was actually feasting on one of the starfish that couldn’t escape, a sight he had never seen before.

DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Aquarium
DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Aquarium

They have other interesting marine life that you will want to see.

DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Aquarium

And they also have a touch tank that is perfect for kids and curious adults too.

DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Aquarium
DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Juneau Aquarium

There are some stairs in the back that you can go down, which will take you down and give you a closer look at some of the tanks.

I recommend going down just so you can get a very close view of the salmon.

Until this visit, I had never realized how big some of these fish were! They are both horrible and beautiful at the same time.

DIPAC Juneau Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

It was at this pool that we saw them jump out of the water, trying to find their way upstream, although this was presumably their last stop. Your inner drive just never lets up.

DIPAC Juneau Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

last word

Overall, I felt that this was a pretty fascinating destination.

It really helped that we visited during the peak salmon run because seeing so many of them fighting against the current was one of the most impressive displays of wildlife behavior I have ever seen.

It would have been very interesting to get one of the behind the scenes tours but unfortunately for us they were not offered.

Given the low price of the attraction, I’d definitely say it’s worth a visit, especially if you have an interest in the local wildlife.

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