Where to See the Salmon Run in the PNW This Fall

Vancouver, BC | Posted: September 13th, 2018

Each year one of nature’s greatest phenomenons hits the Pacific Northwest, the salmon run. After several years of life in the cold ocean waters, guided by instinct and possibly the earth’s magnetic field, salmon return to rivers to spawn and die. Usually, the river is the river of their birth, and sometimes even the river bed they were spawned.  The salmon run is a prime example of the circle of life, and the incredible display of the forces of nature.

Witnessing the salmon run is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors during the cool and crisp autumn. It is also a family-friendly outing that kids are sure to enjoy. The PNW is abundant with spawning rivers and creeks, but we’ve narrowed down a list in BC and Washington.

Goldstream River – Victoria


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Located off of Vancouver Island’s Highway 1, 17km outside of Victoria is Goldstream Park. This beautiful 388-hectare park is a fantastic place for families and visitors to enjoy an afternoon. The park boasts an informational visitor centre which is full of opportunities to learn about the park’s wildlife, including the salmon. This is a must-see for anyone visiting Vancouver Island during the salmon run.

Where: See Map

When: Mid-October for roughly 9 weeks

Types of Salmon: Most commonly Chum Salmon, with some spottings of Coho and Chinook Salmon.

Mission Creek – Kelowna


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Starting Sep 1 and running until October 7th or until the salmon are finished spawning, Park Interpreters will be sharing information and stories about the Kokanee Salmon at Mission Creek in Kelowna, BC. This park is located just outside of the city and offers beautiful creekside trails to observe the salmon.

Where: See Map

When: September to October

Types of Salmon: Kokanee Salmon

Adams River – Salmon Arm


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The Salmon are on the run in the Shuswap, near Kamloops, VC, Canada. It’s the largest salmon run in North America and a wonder to watch. 2018 also happens to be a dominant year with millions of Socjeye Salmon expected to return to the mouth of the Adams River to spawn. The run will peak between the end of September until the 3rd week of October. It is a humbling spectacle to watch. #salmon #sockeyesalmon #salmonrun #spawn #nature #fish #adamslake #bcmagazine #bc #explorekamloops #explorebc #destinationkamloops #shuswap #adamsriver #naturemagazine #fishandwildlife #wondersofnature #nofilter #crimson #olsenimaging #hellobc #salmonrun2018 #fisheriesandoceanscanada #wildlifephotography

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The Adams River Salmon Run is one of the most abundant runs in BC. It is well known and offers some the largest numbers of Sockeye Salmon. Every 4 years, the river will see what is called a “dominant” run, and lucky for you, 2018 is a dominant run!

Where: See Map

When: Late September to end of October

Types of Salmon: Sockeye Salmon

Capilano River Hatchery – North Vancouver


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#Vancouver #Capilano #CapilanoRiverHatchery

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The Capilano River Hatchery is a fantastic spot to look for various types of salmon, and offers exhibits that outline tons of information. At the beginning of the spawning season, you can watch the salmon as they leap up the water staircase. The event is something really special, and the location is absolutely breathtaking.

Where: See Map

When: September to October

Types of Salmon: Chinook and Coho Salmon

Sammamish River – Redmond



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The bridge at Bothell Landing on a fall day. Lovely! #pnw #pnwonderland #bothell #sammamishrivertrail #fall #fallfoliage #autumn #bridge

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As the salmon make their way back to their spawning grounds at Bear Creek, visitors can often witness the salmon as they make their way there. The Sammamish River Trail is beautiful to explore and offers visitors a chance to observe the salmon from observation areas.

Where: See Map

When: September and October

Types of Salmon: Coho, Chinook, and Sockeye Salmon

Longfellow Creek – West Seattle


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Time for salmon surveys in Longfellow Creek! Bring on the rain… #fieldwork #salmon #protectandpreserve #longfellowcreek

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This creek is on the smaller side but is a wonderful place to be able to observe both Coho and Chum salmon as they return to their birth sites to spawn. The walk is an easy walk with observation points to be able to see the salmon as they complete their circle of life!

Where: See Map

When: October to December.

Types of Salmon: Coho (October to December), Chum (November)

A few things to keep in mind when you are setting off to watch a salmon run:

  • Always be mindful of where you are walking. Stay on marked trails, and do not wander over to the creek or river’s edge.
  • Keep a keen eye out for other wildlife. Where there are salmon, there may also be bears, eagles, and other predators.
  • Keep dogs leashed and out of the water
  • Avoid making too much noise while observing

Where is your favourite place to watch the salmon run? Let us know!


Sarah Lafontaine

Sarah is a travel writer, citizen of the world and lover of the Pacific Northwest and tacos. When not writing she can be found searching for her next travel destination or exploring with her dog, Otto. Read about her adventures on her blog Sarah Seize the World and follow her on Instagram @sarahseizetheworld.


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