Where to see salmon
From summer to early winter, Pacific salmon return to rivers and streams around B.C. to spawn. Here’s the scoop on where and when you can expect to see salmon returning and the species you are most likely to see.
Streambeds may contain redds (nests of salmon eggs). Walking in the water disturbs fish and can kill their eggs.
Dress appropriately for local conditions and all kinds of weather. Polarized sunglasses can make it easier to see fish.
If you come with a dog, keep your pet on a leash and out of the water OR leave your dog at home.
Salmon can see you. Approach quietly and do not step into the river or throw rocks or sticks into the water.
Learn more about Pacific salmon and how you can help. Consider volunteering with local streamkeepers!
If you have a favourite place to spot salmon in B.C., let us know and we will add it to the map.
Species: Chinook, coho and steelhead
Best Times: Adult coho, June to November; Chinook, October to November.
North Vancouver’s Capilano River Regional Park and Salmon Hatchery is a well-known area to view returning chinook and coho from June through November. Visitors to the park can learn about spawning salmon at the Capilano education centre and hike the local trail system to view spawning salmon from various lookout spots. Chinook return in October and November and can be viewed through the Capilano Hatchery underwater viewing windows or along the trails at various platforms.
Directions: 4500 Capilano Park Rd, North Vancouver. Heading north on Capilano Road (Capilano Road exit from Highway 1 or North Vancouver exit off Lions Gate Bridge, then left up Capilano Road) About half a kilometre past the Suspension Bridge, turn left on to Capilano Park Road (Look for the Capilano River Regional Park sign) and proceed one kilometre to end of the road. Capilano River Hatchery is located in Capilano River Regional Park, which is operated by Metro Vancouver. See more information on the park.
Species: Coho and chum
Best Times: November and December
From the Bowen Island ferry dock, walk towards the causeway that is the gateway to the Crippen Park trail system. At spawning times this causeway is one of the main “look outs” for both locals and tourists to view returning chum and coho. If you follow the trail further up the lagoon you can watch salmon spawn in the gravel beds nearby or under Bridal Veil Falls .
Species: Chinook, coho, pink in odd-numbered years
Best Times: Adult chinook, August-September; chum October-November; coho November-February.
The Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery just north of Squamish sees returning chinook, coho, and chum salmon each fall during spawning season. The hatchery offers a self-guided tour where you can read about the salmon life cycle on several interpretive signs. The area is also a great place to spot eagles.
Species: Coho, chum, pink in odd-numbered years
Best Times: Adult pink August-September; chum October-November; coho November-February.
The Mamquam river runs through Squamish, and thousands of returning salmon head there each fall. In the Mamquam River, you can see coho, chum and pink salmon spawning as early as August and through to the end of November. If you walk along the main trail head toward the river there are interpretive sign and spawning channels. Keep walking to where the Mamquam meets the Squamish River for the best salmon viewing opportunities. The trail system has several kilometers of flat gravel trails, making it a great place to combine a gentle hike with salmon spotting!
Species: Coho, chum
Best Times: Adult chum October-November; coho November
You can find spawning Coho and Chum salmon in Coquitlam at Hoy Creek Hatchery. Outside of Covid, the hatchery holds a salmon-come home event each October to celebrate the return of the spawning salmon. The City of Coquitlam has information and a handy map that shows you the best locations to view salmon in Hoy Creek Linear Park and nearby Scott Creek.
Species: Chum, coho, pink, steelhead and cutthroat
Best Times: Chum and coho spawners October- December at counting fence at 240th Street Bridge.
You can glimpse chum and coho in several spots along Kanaka Creek during spawning season, but the best place to view in October and November is at the counting fence on 24th Street. This counting fence holds salmon back while they are counted for conservation purposes, so they are easier to spot. After you check out the spawners you can continue on to Bell-Irving Hatchery in Kanaka Creek Regional Park. The park is a wonderful place to visit in the fall with many connected trails and an interpretive centre.
Species: Coho, steelhead, cutthroat, chinook
Best Times: Adults, October-January; juveniles in spring.
If you are in the Surrey area, head to south Surrey to visit the volunteer-run Little Campbell River Hatchery at Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club (1284-184th St., Surrey). A fish fence across the river funnels the fish into a live trap where volunteers count and identify the fish, then release them to spawn upriver. Little Cambell River has coho, chum, chinook, and steelhead at various times throughout the summer and fall. You can follow the river down to the Little Campbell River estuary on the border of White Rock and Surrey and follow the salmon up to the bridge at 160th and 8th avenue for more salmon viewing opportunities.
Species: Coho, chum, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adults, October-December
The Serpentine River runs through Tynehead Regional Park and has a Salmon Habitat Loop trail that offers good views of spawning salmon from late August to November from one of the many bridges in the park. The Serpentine Enhancement Society runs the volunteer-based Tynehead Hatchery in the park. To access the Salmon Habitat Loop, take 96th Ave and follow the signs to Tynehead Regional Park.
Species: Chum, coho, chinook, steelhead and cutthroat
Best Times: Adult chum October-December; chinook July -November; coho October-January
There are several salmon spawning spots to visit in the Harrison Mills area. This includes the DFO managed Chehalis River Hatchery that works in partnership the Chehalis First Nation. The best time to view adult salmon is mid-October through November. If you start at the hatchery you can follow their self-guided tour and then visit viewing areas to see returning salmon. The hatchery is located off of Morris Valley Road near the Hemlock Recreation Area.
Species: Chum, coho, pink, and sockeye
Best Times: Peak spawning activity for sockeye is October 15-20
Further up from the Chehalis River Hatchery is the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel. This 3 km–long spawning channel was created by the federal government in 1965 to accommodate the spawning salmon in the area. Since this channel was built as an extension to the existing Weaver Creek, more salmon can spawn naturally than in the creek alone. Visitors can spot spawning Chum, Sockeye and Pink salmon in the fall and sockeye in October. (access to the spawning channel is closed due to covid-19 restrictions)
Species: Chum, coho, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adult chum in November-December; coho, October-December; chinook, August-November; steelhead, March-April.
The Chilliwack and Vedder rivers are popular salmon fishing rivers because of their proximity to Vancouver. But they’re also popular for salmon viewing during spawning season. A favourite spot for salmon viewing is at the junction of the Chilliwack River and Slesse Creek (pictured above), where you can watch the return of chum, coho, chinook and steelhead salmon. The Chilliwack River Hatchery is located at this same spot and offers viewing locations to see salmon. you get there by taking Chilliwack Lake Road until you cross Slesse Creek Bridge and the hatchery is immediately on the left.
Species: Chum, coho, and pink
Best Times: Adult chum in November-December; coho, October-December; pink, October
Thacker Regional Park is located in Hope near Kawkawa Lake. During the fall people visit the park to view spawning coho, pink and chum salmon along Kawkawa Creek trail. Spawning season begins in October and the park has signage that guides people to popular viewing spots.
Species: Chum salmon, with some coho, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adult chum spawn in November; coho in November and December; chinook in late October and early November; steelhead spawn early in February.
Goldstream Provincial Park is 25 minutes from downtown Victoria on Highway 1. Goldstream River runs through the park and is one of the richest salmon spawning locations on Vancouver Island, with species including chum, coho and chinook spawning. You can start your visit at the Goldstream Park Nature House where there is information on spawning salmon. The trails in the area range from wheelchair accessible to more rugged terrain.
Species: Chum, coho and chinook salmon, and steelhead trout
Best Times: Adult chum and coho spawn November-December; chinook, October-November; steelhead, February-March.
This trail system and viewing area is about 12 km past Qualicum Beach. From mid-September until mid-November the rivers and channels are great spots for salmon viewing and seeing all types of birds and wildlife. The Big Qualicum River Trail is a service road that starts at the hatchery and runs 10 km along the side of the river. There is also a 5 km loop trail that starts at the Little Qualicum River Hatchery that has an underground viewing area and several side trails.
Species: Sockeye, coho and chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adult sockeye in mid-July; coho in August and October; chinook in September and October.
In the Central Island, you can visit Stamp River Provincial Park near Port Alberni to see salmon spawning. Beginning in August, thousands of sockeye, coho and chinook salmon circle in the pool below Stamp Falls before ascending the fish ladders on their way to their spawning beds. Sockeye salmon begin running in August and the run continues with coho and Chinook right into December. The salmon are a draw for black bears and eagles, so bring your binoculars for extra wildlife viewing.
Species: Pink, coho, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Pinks in September; coho and chinook, October- November; steelhead, November-April.
Campbell River is known as the “Salmon Capital of the World” and has many streams and rivers that are ideal for salmon spotting during spawning season. One popular spot for viewing is the Quinsam River area. While you are there, visit the Quinsam River Hatchery, located 5 km west of downtown Campbell River. The hatchery facility has an excellent interpretive centre for salmon and the surrounding rivers offer excellent opportunities to view salmon in their natural setting.
While we don’t recommend this as a fall or winter activity during spawning season, we did receive a few recommendations from our salmon friends suggesting that anyone truly looking for a unique salmon experience will want to try salmon snorkeling in the summer! On Vancouver Island, a few popular hot spots to do this are the Puntledge River in Courteney and the Campbell River in Campbell River. There are snorkeling tours available during the summer that would help navigate waters if you are unfamiliar with the area. Please be aware of weather and water conditions and don’t try this unless you are experienced.