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Minnie McFarland Stevens  (b. 1911, d. 1986)
Minnie McFarland Stevens Page Springs Fish Hatchery
Minnie McFarland Stevens worked for the Arizona Game and Fish Department for 32 years, preserving native wildlife and becoming the first woman in the state to supervise a state fish hatchery. She played an important role in saving the Apache trout from extinction.

Region: North Central Arizona
Theme: Women in Science, Medicine and Health

Born Minner Catherine Mueller in Missouri in 1922, Minnie went west with her husband, Mr. McFarland, who worked as a chef in Los Angeles, Reno and LasVegas. In the late 1940s, the couple moved to the area around Hoover Dam where Minnie registered as a river guide, taking parties out on her fishing boat and enjoying sport fishing on the Colorado River.

After her husband's death in 1954, she went to work full-time with Arizona Game and Fish as a creel census taker, counting, measuring and inspecting fish for disease. The data she collected helped to implement improvements in fisheries management. Minnie often led an isolated life on the rivers, living on boats, camping on riverbanks, and recording measurements and observations in her diary. Working on many of the rivers and lakes in northern Arizona, she was responsible for keeping "an eye on creation's most entertaining combination of critters, humans and fish," she said.

Her greatest accomplishment involved working in a cooperative effort to preserve and protect Arizona's state fish, the Apache trout. This fish, with its olive-yellow body and golden belly with spots across the body, head and fins, is only one of two trout native to Arizona (the other is the Gila trout). Found in abundance in the White Mountains during the late 1800s, the Apache trout was over-fished by early settlers. Compounding the problem in the early 1900s, state and federal wildlife agencies stocked local rivers with non-native trout without realizing those more aggressive fish would overwhelm the Apache trout for limited food supplies and cover. Changing environmental conditions brought on by livestock grazing and timber harvesting also had a negative impact on the Apache trout, reducing their habitat to only 30 miles of streams by the mid-1950s. At that time the White Mountain Apache Tribe halted fishing on reservation waters containing the fish, and in 1969 the Apache trout became the first species to be listed as endangered by the federal government.

Assigned to the Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery on the north end of Oak Creek Canyon in 1959, Minnie worked to revive the Apache trout. She undertook the tedious task of feeding hatchlings a special mixture every half hour for at least eight hours a day for the first few weeks of their lives, until they were strong enough to feed themselves. She was able to increase the number of native Apache trout in her fishery from 68 in 1964 to 1,015 the following year. Numerous wildlife agencies were also involved in this effort, and the fish was reintroduced into several rivers in the Graham Mountains. By 1975, the Apache trout had recovered sufficiently to be downgraded from endangered to threatened. By the summer of 2010, there had been so much progress that the fish may become the first ever removed from the government's wildlife-protection list without going extinct.

Stevens' work supervising the Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery continued for 27 years, culminating with a Distinguished Professional Service Award near the end of her career. In 1966 she married Charles R. Stevens, and the couple lived in a house near the hatchery, enjoying the beauty of Oak Creek Canyon. She retired in June of 1986 and died of cancer four months later. She will be remembered for her love of the sport of fishing, her work to preserve the native Apache trout, and for her dedication to wildlife in the state of Arizona. She was inducted into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame in 1990.

Minnie McFarland Stevens worked at the Sterling Springs Fish Hatchery in Oak Creek Canyon, 13271 N. AZ State Route 89-Alt, Sedona. It is not open to the public. However, the fish raised to a length of 3 inches at this facility are then transferred to Page Springs Fish Hatchery, near Cornville, and this site is open to the public. This hatchery is located on Page Springs Road just south of where it crosses Oak Creek. Page Springs Road is located west of I-17, between State Route 89 and Cornville Road.

Photo Credits:
Minnie McFarland Stevens - Courtesy of the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, 04-7819
Page Springs Fish Hatchery - Courtesy of the Arizona Game and Fish Department

 

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