Salmon watching in the Southern Interior | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Salmon watching in the Southern Interior

Image Credit: Shutterstock

The annual salmon run is upon us and while there are many rivers and streams you may get to see the fish in, there are a few areas that cater to salmon watchers.

The Adams River Salmon Society runs an internationally recognized interpretive centre in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park in the North Shuswap region, about a two-hour drive from Kelowna. Administrative coordinator Darlene Koss says she gets asked “when will the salmon arrive” all the time.

“Mother Nature is the only person you can really talk to about that,” she says with a chuckle.

The best rule of thumb, she says, is that the run typically happens during the first three weeks of October, with Thanksgiving being a prime time to go out for a look — on the Adams River anyways. Every estuary is different, and even individual salmon species have slightly different run times. For instance, Alison Campbell Urness, with the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan located in Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna, says their run is already peaking. 

"We're pretty early this year," she says. 

She says it's a good time to get down to Mission Creek park for a glimpse of the salmon run, which is expected to last a couple more weeks. If you missed the run in the Central Okanagan, or if you just feel like a scenic drive to the north, you can head up to the North Shuswap. 

In the Adams River, Koss says salmon just started showing up around Wednesday, Sept.  20. 

“It looks like we are right about on track,” she says of the “first three weeks in October” window.


Some salmon will travel thousands of kilometres in a typical four-year lifetime and by that last year will return to where they were born to reproduce.

Adult salmon will swim upstream to the same area where they were hatched and once at the spawning grounds the female fish will dig a shallow nest for her eggs. She will release anywhere from two to 10 thousand eggs and then the male salmon will release milt, which contains millions of sperm.

The pair will continue the process as they move upstream until they run out of energy, usually within a day or two.

The fertilized eggs will hatch in three to four months and then will eventually make their way downstream to the ocean.


Salmon spawning runs in a four year cycle, with dominant years in 2014, 2018 and 2022. In those years it is possible to see more than a million fish return to spawn. In post-dominant years, like 2016, the number can be in the hundreds while pre-dominant years, 2017 for example, may see more than 10,000 salmon return to spawn.

At the Adams River, pink salmon only return in September of odd years while chinook spawn through September and October. Sockeye return during the first few weeks of October and then coho return in late October and early November.


Located along the Adams River in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park in the North Shuswap region, the Adams River Salmon Society offers a paved wheelchair accessible walkway, platform lookouts and trails along the river. The Adams River has the largest salmon run in North America. 

The society operates an interpretive centre which is open Friday through Tuesday during September and October. Souvenirs, local art and area information are available, as well as information about the salmon.

In the Central Okanagan you can get a glimpse of the salmon in a couple different locations. Check out the ‘Kokanee Spawning Interpretive Program’ weekends in Mission Creek Regional Park off Springfield Road and Hardy Falls Regional Park in Peachland. Parks Interpreters will be at both locations to answer questions and share Kokanee secrets weekends from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Saturday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 1. Additionally, the Kikinee Salmon Festival, a free, family event, runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24. Contact the education centre at Mission Creek park for more information at 250-469-6140.

Visitors are advised that at Hardy Falls Regional Park, the trail and bridges to the falls viewpoint are not anticipated to open this year due to extensive flood damage to the trail and several bridges.

In the North Okanagan two popular places to see salmon are the Shuswap River in Enderby and Coldstream Creek in Vernon.

In Penticton the fish can often be seen heading up the Okanagan River Channel towards their spawning grounds.


The Adams River Salmon Society recommends approaching river banks slowly and quietly. Don’t throw anything in the river, including rocks or sticks, and keep dogs on leash and out of the water. Do not walk in the water either, it can disturb spawning grounds.

Wherever you go to watch the salmon run, stay on the trails and be respectful of the environment. 

Polarizing lens on sunglasses will help cut down on the glare from the water and try to find viewing sites from higher up, such as from bridges or tops of banks, to increase visibility.


This was taken a few days ago. Sockeye Salmon coming home to spawn on Scotch Creek. They will be shimmering red on the... Posted by Adams River Salmon Society on Sunday, September 20, 2015

— This story makes use of information from an article originally published Sept. 24, 2015. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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