Here’s where to see spawning salmon in Western Washington
From the Cedar River to the newly free Elwha, witness the miracle of salmon migration
The News Tribune
Northwest travel guides
Fall 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, Kennedy Creek, in Mason County, and Minter Creek, in Pierce County.
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 best locations around Western Washington:
CEDAR RIVER SALMON JOURNEY
Trained guides are at four locations along the Cedar River, from Renton to Ravensdale, this weekend, Oct. 25-26, 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 20- to 40-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 at this Tacoma hatchery. The best view 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 S.W., Tacoma.
HIRAM S. CHITTENDEN LOCKS
In Ballard, you can see salmon making their way up the 21-step fish ladder through October. 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. 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 October. You can see salmon returning on the state Department of Fish and Wildlife webcams at the hatchery: wdfw.wa.gov/wildwatch/salmoncam.
KENNEDY CREEK SALMON TRAIL
Located between Olympia and Shelton in Mason County, the Salmon Trail will be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends throughout November, 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 to 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.
Information: 360-412-0808, Ext. 101, spsseg.org/kennedy-creek-salmon-trail
KITSAP COUNTY 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. Suquamish Tribe fisheries biologist Jay Zischke and others will lead walks in the Chico Creek watershed to view salmon at the Mountaineers Foundation Rhododendron Preserve. This 1.5-mile round-trip walk over sometimes steep terrain will begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.; 3153 Seabeck Highway, Bremerton.
Or head for Poulsbo’s Fish Park, 288 N.E. Lindvig Way, for Salmon-Viewing Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 1.
In November, people walking along McLane Creek Nature Trail can see wild chum salmon spawning. 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 and salmon types, and will suggest 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 trailed 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 Kp N in Gig Harbor.
Information: Call 253-857-5077 to find out when the staff are taking eggs from fish.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
There are multiple locations in the park to see salmon making their way upstream. Among the best places 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, Pierce County, 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 see salmon returning to the Voight Creek Hatchery outside of Orting as well.
In Olympia and near Tumwater Falls Park, you can see chinook salmon in holding ponds and along the Deschutes River trail through October. At the dam, a three-step fish ladder helps returning salmon “climb” 80 feet to get around the dam.
Seattle Times staff contributed to this report.