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Great River Road Interpretive Center in Genoa is a special place to visit
FOUR-YEAR-OLD Brock Kallenbach of LaCrescent, Minnesota, lands a fish while participating with his family in the Kids Ice Fishing Derby on Sunday, Feb. 10. The event was sponsored by the Genoa National Fish Hatchery, the Great River Road Interpretive Center, and Friends of the Upper Mississippi.

GENOA - Many are familiar with the sight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife facility on the banks of the Mississippi River near Genoa, but you may have missed the excitement last summer when their new ‘Great River Road Interpretive Center’ had its grand opening.

This facility is definitely worth the visit, and sure to entertain the young and old alike. Four exhibits are offered, including a History of the Genoa Fish and Wildlife Hatchery, Conservation and the Wildlife Refuge; a History of the Blackhawk War; a Mississippi River History Room; and stunning aquariums containing fish species that can be found in the Mississippi River and area streams.

The Great River Road Interpretive Center has a gallery dedicated to the early history of the Mississippi River, the tragedy of the Blackhawk War, the early history of the fish hatchery and conservation, and two fresh water aquariums.

The interpretive center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Great River Road Interpretive Center is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Mississippi River Parkway Commission, the National Scenic Byways Program, and Friends of the Upper Mississippi (who operate the bookstore).

Genoa National Fish Hatchery was created by the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Act of 1924. It is one of 72 federal hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Kid’s Ice Fishing Derby

At the Kid’s Ice Fishing Derby, held at the Genoa Fish Hatchery on Sunday, Feb. 10, they had 491 attendees, including approximately 250 children. There were 34 volunteers, Friends, and staff on hand to help with everything from registration to baiting hooks. Attendance was down slightly from 2018, most likely due to necessary rescheduling and postponement of the event due to the extremely cold weather during the recent ‘polar vortex’ outbreak. 

“As far as we know every child caught at least one fish,” said USFWS Environmental Education Specialist Raena Parsons. “There were also plenty that caught the three allowed with a special waiver of the rules just for the educational event.”

Everywhere at the event one heard squeals of joy as beautiful trout, ranging from wee to big, virtually leaped out of the water and onto the kids hooks. One was hard pressed, walking around, to avoid stepping on flopping fish, and many battles were waged by young fishers to hang on to their slippery prizes. 

It was a touching moment of watching kids and the adults that accompanied them bonding, teaching skills, and just plain having a good old time together. Fish & Wildlife staff, game wardens, and Friends of the Upper Mississippi River were on hand to assist and enjoy the fun.

The Hatchery will hold spring Kids Fishing Day in the middle of May, although they do not have an official day selected yet. Notice of the event will appear on their Facebook page once they have the details. In June, they also partner with the Wisconsin Lions District 27-D2 to host a Fishability Day for K-12 special needs students.