Fun Family Outings: Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery – Branson, Missouri

Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery Tour

Whenever we travel outside of our city, we always attempt to find things to do as a family that are free, fun, and educational. Imagine my surprise when we called the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery and realized that we could come and hang out for an hour or so, and see how they run the largest trout rearing facility under the Missouri Department of Conservation. We learned that trout aren’t native to Missouri, but the Branson area and Lake Taneycomo specifically, provide the perfect temperature for the fish to thrive in, and for anglers to catch. 

We’ve visited Branson a total of five times in ten years, and this is our FIRST time visiting the Shepherd of the Hills fish hatchery, and I’m kind of kicking myself for waiting so long. 

Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery 

Check Out the Live Animals

What really makes this place cool are the live animals that you can interact with, and knowledgeable staff members to answer questions from everyone. The littles had a lot of fun answering questions about snakes, toads, frogs, and birds. Lil Miss got to show off how much she’s learned from programs like Wild Kratts, and even I was impressed with how much information she’s soaked up from them. We got to see a special two-headed snake, and we learned a bit of information there too. Venomous snakes give birth to live babies, while non-venomous ones lay eggs. In the case of the two headed snake (a baby black rat snake) the eggshells of both snakes didn’t form properly, therefore, the snakes didn’t have a chance to develop individually. Cool stuff for sure! The ladybug is a LOT more adventurous than I ever was at her age. For some reason, snakes freaked me out – and they don’t feel like they look. 

There were also venomous snakes on display, but those didn’t come out of their tanks – for obvious reasons. We did get to see a poisonous toad, and she promptly let us know that she was NOT happy about being taken out of her tank, and peed. Yes. She attempted to pee on us so that we would drop her. It almost worked to, but I’ve birthed four babies. Pee is just part of the game. 

After checking out the rest of the animals, both live and taxidermied, we moved over to the large tank of lake fish, and saw rainbow and brown trout and learned how to tell the difference between the males and females! I won’t tell you here, but I can give you a hint that it has to do with mouth size! The ladybug got really good at identifying the different species of trout based on informational placards on the outside of the tank. 

Lessons In Egg Fertilization 

We then headed outside to the raceways, where the trout were being raised, to feed them, and see egg collection! Trout food can be purchased for a quarter out of the gumball machines outside of the conservation center. Watching the trout feed was pretty exciting. They kind of attack the food all at once. I’m glad they were hungry. We then walked over to the second building on the raceway to see as female trout were having their eggs harvested, and then mixed with the sperm of the males. Quite an efficient process if I do say so myself. There’s even an 8 minute video that you can watch before heading outside to let you know exactly what’s going on. 

The video does go on to explain how and why Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery came to be in Missouri. Given that trout aren’t native to the area, because they need cool temperatures to thrive all year, the area that Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is in is perfect. It sits right at the foot of Table Rock Dam which fills the Taneycomo basin with cool water whenever it’s empty. Trout like their water very cool, and their habitation in the lake make anglers happy.

If you’re interested in fishing, day passes for catching trout are minimally priced, and there is a 4 fish limit per person. The staff at the hatchery can give you better details on that since we didn’t participate in fishing this time around. Although, Sir Twizzler let us know that the next time we come down, we’ll have to fish, and that’s all right with me, because kids fish for free! The lakes are stocked monthly with rainbow trout, and annually with brown trout. 

All in all, it was a great FREE day – outside of the two dollars we spent to feed the trout – and the front desk will gladly make change for you. If you’re into bird-watching, there’s a great set of birdhouses right out front that you can perch at (get it?!) and see a great variety. The day we visited we saw cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, chickadees and a couple of other birds that I wasn’t able to identify. All I know is the blue jay was the meanest of them all. The hatchery is open Tuesday through Saturday, September through May, and 7 days a week June through August. Major and state holidays you will find their doors closed. I recommend planning on spending 45 minutes to an hour there to really be able to enjoy the facility. 


Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery 
483 Hatchery Rd, Branson, MO 65616
(417) 334-4865 ext. 0


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  • Reply
    Marissa @ PregnantEve
    January 7, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    That was real brave of you! Snakes creep me out…hope you guys learnt a lot and had fun while doing so!!

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      January 8, 2018 at 8:29 am

      Oh, I held no snakes. The kids did. I don’t even think my husband held them either. I mean, the ranger on duty held their heads, but still – they are just skeevy!

  • Reply
    Kari Wagner Hoban
    January 8, 2018 at 6:54 am

    I have actually driven by that place (in 2010) and remember it because I wanted to take my kids there.
    But NOPE to the snakes.

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      January 8, 2018 at 8:30 am

      You should still go and feed the trout though! You don’t HAVE to hold the snakes, I certainly didn’t, I was just the photographer!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    This was a very informative post!! You little ones are so adorable!! Funny how the toad tried to pee because he was upset!! Lol
    Thank you for sharing!! Great job!

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      January 10, 2018 at 8:38 pm

      Thanks for coming through! Yeah, the toad was a female and she realized we were NOT a male and wanted to get away. it was hilarious!

  • Reply
    Sheena Steward
    January 10, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Your little ones are bold and brave! I learned a lot reading this post. I’m like you though I’m not sure if I would hold the snakes either.

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      January 10, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      They are definitely more brave than I was. I’m glad that I had my camera to hide behind. My oldest daughter is ALL about animals. When we have chickens on our homestead, she’s the first one to deal with them, until one pecks her too many times.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2018 at 11:35 am

    You are right! Snakes don’t feel like they look at all. That frog/toad whatever would have been a no. I don’t do frog like animals. Snakes I don’t mind… I think. I think my kids would love something like this, but like you – I’m gonna just drive and observe. No touching.

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      January 10, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      Ooh, you’re the first person I’ve heard that has a dislike of frogs/toads! NONE of us were interested in the tarantula that was on site. So it got no love.

  • Reply
    Crystal Nicole
    January 10, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    This is a no for me! OMG, just looking at it freaks me out, but you all are some brave, brave souls.

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      January 10, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      Ha! The kids love little things like this. It’s amazing that we’re on opposite sides of the spectrum with things like this. I’m learning to embrace animals, and it seems to be ingrained in them already.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    You go on the best adventures! But no way in hell am I holding a snake!

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      January 10, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      Our adventures are pretty neat, but I concur with your snake sentiment. They are wily little things.

  • Reply
    January 11, 2018 at 5:02 am

    This looks like it was a very educational outing – I love it! My boys would be all over the snakes too – I’ll leave the holding to the kids though.

    • Reply
      Natasha Nicholes
      January 12, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      Yeah, my husband and I were cool with just taking the photos. My youngest daughter could NOT be bothered with that two headed snake though. I don’t blame her one bit.

  • Reply
    Mimi Green
    January 11, 2018 at 7:55 am

    You guys are really brave. This is good educational fun. I cracked up laughing at the pee part. I so feel you on that.

  • Reply
    January 11, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Your children are Really Brave! I am not a fan of reptiles at all. But I would love to visit this place someday.

  • Reply
    Katherine G
    January 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    My kids would love an adventure like this. They love to learn about animals. I would have gotten a kick out of this too.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2018 at 6:03 am

    I love reading about your trips in the Midwest! Makes me want to venture out more to smaller areas and not just the big cities!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    I saw the snakes and was like “where is this going Natasha?” lol. Your little lady is definitely a brave one. Did you learn anything about ethically farm raised trout?

  • Reply
    Cindy Ladage
    January 14, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Great story, but the two-headed snake ewww! Great story! Loved the fish facts.

  • Reply
    Courtney CJ
    January 14, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    The former science teacher in me loves animals but I’m not sure I can get down with the reptiles yet! I always say I will but usually punk out. I think I’ve only held a snake once in my life.

  • Reply
    Lindsay @ Let Me Give You Some Advice
    January 16, 2018 at 8:27 am

    My boys would be all over touching those snakes! What a cool stop. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Scott Family Amazeum - Interactive Fun for the Family
    January 16, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    […] a kick out of, and we are willing to drive a bit for it. When we did our first trip of the year to Branson, Missouri – I figured, it wouldn’t be too bad of a day trip to head down to Bentonville Arkansas […]

  • Reply
    Connie Reed
    January 19, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    We’ve been to Branson at least a dozen times and have never been to the fish hatchery. I think we tried to go once, but it was closed.
    Such an interesting fact that venomous snakes give live birth and non-venomous lay eggs. Who knew?

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