Fall in Vancouver, Coast & Mountains arrived quietly on September 22 and with it brought the anticipation of cooler days, corn mazes, pumpkin fields and the fall harvest. But Fall in this region also means that it’s time for the spectacle that is Pacific Salmon spawning.
British Columbia is home to five species of salmon, Spring (or Chinook), Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chum, and arguably, there is nothing more epic than the voyage undertaken to return to their spawning grounds. Many travel over thousands of kilometres, guided primarily by smell as they return to their birthplaces.
There are plenty of great places around the region to see the salmon fight their way upstream, and many of the locations provide educational information about the life cycle of the salmon. From September to December, the different species of salmon put on a show that delights all ages as they swim and leap through the gently winding spawning channels and rivers. In addition to the human spectators, the salmon spawning also attracts wildlife. In more remote areas, bears gather to feed on the salmon, and hundreds of Bald Eagles are drawn to the Harrison and Cheakamus Rivers.
Click here for a complete list of salmon spawning view spots in the province, and below are a few of our favourites.
Thacker Regional Park, Hope
Located near Kawkawa Lake, Thacker Regional Park is home to spawning and rearing channels for coho, pink and chum salmon. An easy 1 km trail, through beautiful forested areas, leads to a viewing area where there are signs explaining the life cycle of the salmon. The trail is also part of the Trans Canada Trail system, which leads to the Othello Tunnels to the east.
The Harrison River is the first designated Salmon stronghold in BC and is the only river in BC to host all 5 species of Salmon and Steelhead Trout. This salmon bounty brings in up to 10,000 Bald eagles every fall. The spawning salmon are best viewed by boat, with boat tours available from Harrison.
Mamquam Spawning Channel, Squamish
The Mamquam River in the Squamish area is popular with hikers, fishermen, bikers and horseback riders. The main trail (located on a dyke road just after the bridge over the river) leads to the salmon spawning channels and although it’s not marked, it is the most well used of the trails and pretty easy to find. The Coho and Chum salmon visit this channel between August and November. In the winter months, this area is home to hundreds of wintering bald eagles who are there to feast on the salmon after they spawn.
Chapman Creek, Sechelt
Chapman Creek is a popular hiking and biking trail south of Sechelt and the creekis also an important spawning ground for Pink, Chum and Coho Salmon. The Pink arrive in August & September and the Coho and Chum run from October to December. There is a hatchery nearby that is open year round and full of information about the life cycle of the salmon.
Capilano Salmon Hatchery, North Vancouver
Located in North Vancouver along the Capilano River in Capilano River Regional Park, this hatchery is one of the more popular for visitors. An interpretive centre fully explains the life cycle of the salmon and viewing windows allow visitors to see salmon fighting their way up the fish ladders. The park has wonderful hiking trails and viewing spots to watch the salmon jumping as they swim up the river.
Tynehead Hatchery, Surrey
Located in Tynehead Regional Park, near the headwaters of the Serpentine River, the Tynehead Hatchery handles four species of salmon annually. Follow the hatchery trail for viewing platforms over the river.
Weaver Creek Spawning Channel, Harrison Mills
Another popular spot to watch the salmon is at the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel near Harrison Mills. The channel is a man-made offshoot of the natural Weaver Creek and provides the salmon a safer spot to lay their eggs. There are plenty of great viewing spots right alongside the creek.
Weaver Creek Spawning Channel, Credit: fs200rocks via YouTube
For complete details about how to get to the channels and hatcheries, and when the best viewing times are, please download the Where & When to See Salmon Pamphlet from the Department of Fisheries & Oceans.