After spending years traveling the ocean, salmon return to the the place of their birth, instinctively making their way up rivers that often pose natural challenges and dangers for the large fish. This cycle is an important process as the returning salmon not only give birth, they also provide nutrients to the ecosystems and are an important part of the sustainability of local plant and wildlife.
There are many places to see the returning salmon and some of the more popular areas have been listed below in areas where there are often active salmon hatcheries. The best time to see returning salmon swimming upstream can very depending on the year and species but generally from late-September until early-November is the best time of year. There are many smaller neighbourhood creeks and streams where fry (juvenile salmon) are released during the spring months and these areas have also seen large salmon return and make their way up the narrow waterways.
Vancouver and Southwestern BC Salmon Runs
Sechelt – Located in Porpoise Bay near Sechelt, the Sechelt Hatchery has juvenile chinook from October to mid June and juvenile coho from February to mid-June with the most astounding show of the adults from September to November.
Sunshine Coast – Located just north of Langdale, the Sunshine Coast Salmonid Enhancement Society has a wide range of species including coho, chinook, pink, cutthroat, steelhead salmon and rainbow trout.
Bowen Island – Located in Crippen Regional Park, the creek has an extensive fish ladder to help the returning salmon to the Terminal Creek Hatchery.
Capilano River – Located in North Vancouver, the Capilano Salmon Hatchery is a great place to see the returning salmon as they make their way up the rugged river.
Seymour River – Located in North Vancouver, the Seymour River Hatchery can be accessed by vehicle but you must call in for vehicle authorization and directions or access by foot or bike by the Seymour watershed surrounded with beautiful nature trails.
Tenderfoot Creek – Located north of Squamish, the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery is a great place to see the adult chinook from August to September and the coho from November to February. If you catch the adult coho season, be sure to watch for eagles in the surrounding skies and trees.
Kanaka Creek – Located in Maple Ridge, the Bell-Irving Hatchery has fish all year-round with spawners from October to December and daily tours available.
Inch Creek – Located near Mission, the Inch Creek Hatchery is a beautiful spot to see the adult chum and coho returning from late October to December.
Chehalis River – Located in the Harrison Mills area, the Chehalis River Hatchery has a range of specifies including chum, coho, chinook, steelhead and cutthroat with adults returning right from July to January depending on the species.
Weaver Creek – Very close to the Chehalis River Hatchery in the Harrison Mills area, there is the Weaver Creek Hatchery which has a display on sockeye salmon with brochures and a self-guided tour
Little Campbell River – Located in Surrey, the Little Campbell River Hatchery has a picnic site with trails and ducks being raised at this location. Adult coho, steelhead, cutthroat and chinook fight their way through the river to spawn from October to January.
Tynehead Hatchery – Located in North Surrey near the headwaters of the Serpentine River, the Tynehead Enhancement Hatchery does tours by appointment only with returning coho, chum, chinook and steelhead from October to December. Also take advantage of the beautiful nature trails of Tynehead Regional Park.
Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery – Located in Abbotsford, the Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery has rainbow trout but also has Steelhead and cutthroat with a large public display area with a theatre for films and slide shows.
Chilliwack River – located at the junction of Slesse Creek with the Chilliwack River, this is an excellent fall destination to watch the return of the chum, coho, chinook and steelhead salmon advancing through the strong currents.
Jones Creek – Located near Hope, the Jones Creek Spawning Channel has Pink Salmon spawning odd-numbered years. Take some time to enjoy Jones Lake nearby as well.
Is there an area where you like to go to see the returning salmon? Let us know in the comments below.