Fall has arrived, bringing with it cool weather and changing leaves. It also is the prime time to see salmon moving upstream as they prepare to spawn. Area streams and rivers are full of fish such as chinook, coho, chum and sockeye salmon, and steelhead trout making their way up waters such as the Puyallup and Cedar rivers, and the Kennedy and Minter creeks.
While fishermen are out in force, hoping to catch their next meal, this time of year is a good opportunity to see salmon and learn about their freshwater-saltwater-freshwater life cycle. There are a number of locations throughout the region where you can see salmon moving upstream; some have volunteers stationed streamside to answer questions about salmon.
Here are some of the locations:
CEDAR RIVER SALMON JOURNEY
Trained guides will be at four locations along the Cedar River every weekend in October from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. You can learn about the natural and human history of the Cedar River, as well as the life cycle and habitat needs of returning chinook, coho and sockeye salmon. The locations are Jones Park, Cedar River Park, Cavanaugh Pond Natural Area and Landsburg Park and Dam. At Cavanaugh Pond and Landsburg Park visitors can take 30-minute tours. The Renton Library and Riverview Park site is closed this year because of construction.
CHAMBERS CREEK HATCHERY
This is a good time to see coho make their way upstream. The best place to see them is at the dam, not far upstream from the mouth of the creek. A trail follows the stream as well. Later, from December to February, winter chum will go up to Flett Creek. The hatchery is at 8315 Phillips Road SW, Tacoma.
Located in Ballard, you can see salmon making their way up the 21-step fish ladder through this month. Sockeye, chinook, coho and steelhead make their way through the locks.
ISSAQUAH SALMON HATCHERY
Chinook are the first to return, with the first fish showing up in late August. Most arrive through the next week or so. Coho generally arrive late in September and continue through late November. The hatchery also sees a few sockeye salmon, which usually arrive from late September through this month. You can see salmon returning on the state Department of Fish and Wildlife webcams at the hatchery at wdfw.wa.gov/
KENNEDY CREEK SALMON TRAIL
Located between Olympia and Shelton, will be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends Nov. 1-30, as well as on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11) and the Friday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28). There are 11 viewing stations with interpretive signs along the half-mile trail, giving visitors a look at some of the 20,000-40,000 chum salmon that spawn in this natural environment. Walking the trail is free, but donations are accepted. A $7 donation will support two student visits. The annual Chum, Chowder & Chili fundraiser will be held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 15 and 22.
KITSAP SALMON TOURS
The Great Peninsula Conservancy is hosting two free events Nov. 8 along Chico Creek. There will be a program by salmon experts at 10 a.m. at the Chico Salmon Viewing Park, Chico Way at Golf Club Hill Road, Bremerton. There will be programs at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Mountaineers Foundation Rhododendron Preserve, 3153 Seabeck Highway, Bremerton.
In November, people walking along McLane Creek Nature Trail can see wild chum salmon spawning naturally. The trail is off Delphi Road in Thurston County. A Discover Pass is required for parking at the trail. There are three places where the trail comes close to the creek for easy viewing, including one bridge crossing and two viewing platforms. Stream Team Salmon Stewards will be on hand Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. from mid-November to early December. They will have items such as polarized viewers, egg development display cases and other educational material to explain the salmon life cycle, salmon types and actions area residents can take to help salmon survive.
MINTER CREEK HATCHERY
Fish will be coming upstream and up the fish ladder at this Key Peninsula hatchery through Christmas. The chinook run has tailed off, but the coho should start picking up. In mid-November, chum salmon will begin returning to the hatchery, which has a good viewing platform. The hatchery is at 12710 124th Ave. Court KPN.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
There are multiple locations to see salmon making their way upstream. Among the best locations to see coho are the Salmon Cascades in the Sol Duc River in October, and in the small tributary of the Hoh River, accessed by the Hoh Visitor Center nature trail, in November and December. The Elwha River has runs of chinook, coho and sockeye salmon. Look for fish passing under the U.S. Highway 101 bridge and at places along the river upstream from there. With the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, more salmon are making their way upstream than in the last 100 years. Check out the observation area at the end of Whiskey Bend Road, and you might see some salmon passing through the Glines Canyon dam site.
SOUTH PRAIRIE CREEK
There are several locations along the creek in and near the town of South Prairie where you can see chinook looking to spawn. On the east side of the town, a rest area at the fire station has good views of the creek. Another good spot is the bridge at the intersection of Fettig and Lower Burnett roads. Spots along the Foothills Trail go right along the creek. You can seeing salmon returning to the Voight Creek Hatchery outside of Orting as well.
TUMWATER FALLS PARK
In Olympia, you can see chinook salmon in holding ponds and along the Deschutes River trail walk through this month. You also can watch the fish spawning operation on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings through early October. Stream Team Salmon Stewards are stationed at the Fifth Avenue dam and the park on weeknights, weekends, and during the morning spawning operation. At the dam, a three-step fish ladder helps returning salmon “climb” 80 feet to get around the dam.