Salmon Viewing

Every fall, something amazing occurs in streams and rivers in the Pacific Northwest: the return of the adult salmon to freshwater rivers and streams to spawn. Their strength and determination to get back to their birth place is a marvel to watch and admire. They migrate thousands of miles from the feeding grounds of the Pacific Ocean back to their natal rivers and streams. The finale includes changing colors and shape, not eating any longer, using stored energy for producing eggs and sperm, fighting the forces of water, jumping obstacles, digging gravel, fighting, spawning, and dying.

Beginning in late August, the public can view the returning adult salmon and learn about the salmon run from Stream Team Salmon Stewards.

Public Salmon Viewing Sites

Deschutes River – Hatchery Chinook

Managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Two viewing locations for returning adult salmon:

  • 5th Avenue Dam Fish Ladder at dam overlook in downtown Olympia from mid-August to mid-September
    • Watch the salmon swim in Budd Inlet below the dam and dodge the seals and try to ascend the fish ladder
  • Tumwater Falls Park at the fish holding ponds and along the Deschutes River trail walk from September to mid-October
    • Walk the Deschutes River loop trail and watch the salmon along the river and at the lower falls
    • Watch the salmon spawning in the gravel below the lower falls
    • Watch the fish spawning operation on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings beginning the 3rd Monday in September through early October.
    • Come to Salmon and Cider Sunday on the first Sunday in October from noon to 4 p.m.

Stream Team Salmon Stewards are stationed at the 5th Avenue Dam and Tumwater Falls Park on weeknights and weekends, and during the morning spawning operation at Tumwater Falls Park.

Come back in the spring and see the juvenile salmon in the holding ponds. Approximately every two weeks one batch of juveniles is released and another batch is brought in. The young salmon are held in the holding ponds to imprint them with the scent of the Deschutes River water so they will return back to the Deschutes River as adult salmon. Help release the juvenile salmon into the Deschutes River in May. Check the calendar in April for the date and details.

McLane Creek – Wild Chum

In November, wild chum run can be seen spawning naturally in McLane Creek at McLane Creek Nature Trail located off Delphi Road in Thurston County. A Discover Pass is required for parking at McLane Creek Nature Trail.

There are three places where the trail comes close to creek for easy viewing, including one bridge crossing and two viewing platforms.

Stream Team Salmon Stewards are at one or more of the viewing platforms on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from mid- November to early December. Salmon Stewards have polarized viewers, egg development display cases and other educational material to explain the salmon life cycle, types of salmon, salmon survival, and what we can do to help salmon survive.

Good behavior when viewing salmon

When adult salmon are in the rivers, it’s easy to get close and watch them, but take care not to scare or annoy them. Returning salmon are trying to spawn successfully despite their long, tiring journey. Scaring the salmon may ruin their opportunity to spawn: so be kind and gentle to the fish.

  • Dogs can spook fish so it’s best to leave dogs at home. When dogs are off leash, they can also run into the creek, scaring fish and damaging egg buried in the stream bed. Also, dogs are susceptible to a lethal disease from fish carcasses known as “salmon poisoning”.
  • Approach fish from afar. Find a place to sit or stand still and watch the fish quietly.
  • Getting too close may spook the fish, so keep at least 10 feet from the creek edge and allow more distance if the fish seem “nervous”.
  • Do not walk in the creek gravel through the spring, while the eggs are developing.

Salmon Poisoning in Dogs

 Salmon poisoning is caused by a bacteria that enters the dog’s intestines from eating raw infected salmon. Once exposed, there is a nearly 90% fatality in untreated dogs. Prevention focuses on eliminating exposure to raw fish. If you bring your dog to view spawning salmon, keep the dog leashed, close to your side, and away from live and dead salmon.

Salmon and other types of fish that swim upstream to breed can be infected with a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. The parasite is harmless but many are infected with an organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca that is the cause of the poisoning.

Symptoms of Salmon Poisoning in Dogs

Signs of canine salmon poisoning occur within six days of eating infected fish with death occurring in untreated dogs in 14 days. Symptoms are severe and include:

  • vomiting
  • lack of appetite
  • fever
  • bloody diarrhea
  • weakness
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • dehydration

Given the severity of the condition, treatment is relatively simple. Treatment includes intravenous antibiotics, IV fluids, and nutritional support to fill the bacterial organism and correct the damage done. Once treatment has been started, most dogs show dramatic improvement within two days.

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