Journey of the Salmon

Salmon jumping
photo: Ken Matheson

Watching the salmon jump at Bailey’s Chute in Wells Gray Park is a very powerful experience. The journey of salmon is one of the most epic natural journey’s to unfold each fall. Chinook Salmon travel over 600km through lakes, up heavy rapids, strong currents, and against natural predators to their spawning ground, leaving the last bit of effort to spawn, and then to die.

Knowing this and witnessing these incredible creatures battle against all odds is both heartbreaking and overwhelming. Lets take a closer look at the journey of the Clearwater River Chinook Salmon.

Chinook Salmon are one of the largest Pacific Salmon, weighing between 8 – 22kg. The salmon you see this fall were born four to six years ago in a gravely area, a few kilometers downstream of Bailey’s Chute, known as the Horseshoe. They have spent the last few years roaming the Pacific Ocean. Their journey will take them little over a month, and will see them enter the Fraser River near Vancouver, cross Kamloops Lake, up the North Thompson River and then along the Clearwater River. They will feed very little if at all; their only motive is to reach their spawning grounds.

Once they reach the Horseshoe,  redds (nests) are dug  in the gravel, where their eggs are deposited and fertilized. After all this, all that is left is death.  A few salmon, for some unknown reason will overshoot the Horseshoe and battle against the strong currents of Bailey’s Chute. Some believe that it is these salmon that overshoot their spawning ground who are responsible for establishing new spawning grounds, and are actually accredited for returning the salmon back to Clearwater River after the last ice age (Nature Wells Gray, 1995, P 131).

Where to watch SalmonDSC_0052

Bailey’s Chute is located approximately 59.5 km along the Clearwater Valley Road from the Wells Gray Park and Clearwater Information Center. The best time to view these salmon would be early morning and evening in early September. Make sure to call the Information Center as Salmon’s return date vary from year to year, as do their numbers.

Raft River Viewing platform is just outside Clearwater, and here you can view Sockeye Salmon spawning. Each year the return of the sockeye salmon are celebrated through the First Fish Ceremony; a traditional Simpcew First Nation ceremony to give thanks to the creator for the returning salmon.

For more information about the First Fish Ceremony and where to view Salmon contact the Wells Gray Park and Clearwater Information Center at tel: 250 674 3334