Hatchery volunteer Liz Hackner assists children diving into the touch tank at Youth Outdoor Fest. Credit: USFWS
La Crosse Wisconsin’s 7th annual Youth Outdoor Fest is a great community event that was sponsored by the La Crosse Park and Rec department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Friends of the Upper Miss. Over 2000 kids and their parents showed up for this year’s event on July 11th, 2015. Many outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, archery, hatchet throwing, bird-watching, an electrofishing demonstration, fish dissections, fly fishing, fur identification, geocaching, Genoa’s touch tank, pontoon rides and storytelling were all on display. Many local vendors and conservation agencies also had booths at the event. One of the stars of Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s touch tank was a young of the year map turtle found on the hatchery grounds. Other inhabitants of the tank were a red-eared slider turtle, lake sturgeon, minnows and several species of freshwater mussels. The touch tank gave the children an opportunity to root through the bottom substrate, just like kids from all generations have to catch fishing bait, explore for mussels, and generally just have an all- around good time. In fact one little girl fell in love with our map turtle, and ended up camping out at our booth for the entire length of the event. The hatchery booth also included fish on a stick to help with fish identification and an aquarium with cold and coolwater species of fish. Many of the children came back for seconds on the touch tank, and the lake sturgeon was also a big star of the tank. This ancient fish amazed the kids with its camouflage and sharp scutes to protect itself against predators. Events such as Youth Outdoor Fest give children a fun day of activities in hope to pique their interest in the outdoors, and desire to protect it for future generations.