Where to view spawning salmon around western Washington
The salmon migration is in full swing and right now is the perfect time to get an upfront view of their majestic journey
Fall and early winter are the best time to view salmon moving into rivers and streams as they prepare to spawn. And many of the top places to see chum salmon are in southern Puget Sound where the annual return peaks around Nov. 14.
This is a great opportunity to learn about the salmon’s life cycle including several areas that are hosting events and will have volunteers stationed streamside to answer questions. The chum salmon are predictable, but the weather is not, and it may rain at times. Be sure to dress for the weather, wear comfortable waterproof shoes, and exercise caution as trails in some places can be slippery when wet.
Here are the top salmon viewing locations:
Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail — The creek is nestled halfway between Olympia and Shelton in Mason County. About 20,000 adult chum salmon return to the creek annually to spawn and visitors can find several viewing stations with interpretive signs along the well-maintained but unpaved trail. The trail is open Nov. 4 through Dec. 3 to the public on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The trail is open for youth and adult field trips on weekdays, and they last around 1.5 hours. Be sure to mark your calendar for the Kennedy Creek Salmon Celebration on Nov. 18 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. For details, visit the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group website.
Kitsap County Salmon Tours — The Washington State University Kitsap Extension Program is hosting seven free events on Nov. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Bremerton, Poulsbo, and Silverdale. There will be a program by biologists, local environmental organizations, and trained docents. Opportunities include interactive activities through Kitsap Regional Library, guided walks at Keta Legacy’s Rhododendron Preserve, and more. You’ll have a chance to discover local salmon species, their lifecycles, and the role you play in their survival. For details, visit the Kitsap Salmon Tours webpage.
McLane Creek Nature Trail — Take a stroll along the McLane Creek Nature Trail to see migrating chum salmon from mid-November through early to mid-December. The trail is an easily walkable 1.1-mile path located off Delphi Road in Thurston County. A Discover Pass is required for parking at the trail. Good viewing areas are the bridge crossing and two viewing platforms. The Chum Salmon and Cider Celebration is Nov. 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stream Team Salmon Stewards will be on hand during weekends and holidays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Docent volunteers are welcome but must sign up in advance for training. For details, visit the Stream Team website.
Olympic National Park — Nestled in the massive rainforest park are many rivers and streams that are home to all five salmon species and fall is usually the ideal time to view their majestic journey back to natal spawning grounds. Migrating salmon can be found in the Salmon Cascades of the Sol Duc River, and in the Hoh River, which is accessible by the Hoh Visitor Center Nature Trail now through December. The Elwha River also has coho salmon that can be viewed below the U.S. Highway 101 Bridge as well as other upriver locations. For details, visit the Olympic National Park website.
Bayshore Preserve near Shelton — Come witness the “Salmon Experience” as thousands of chum salmon return in late fall to Johns Creek located on the westside of Oakland Bay off East State Route 3. Join Capitol Land Trust and Puget Sound Estuarium where salmon docents will answer questions about salmon behavior and restoration efforts at the Bayshore Preserve on Nov. 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For details, visit the Capitol Land Trust website or call 360–943–3012.
Issaquah Salmon Hatchery — This popular WDFW Hatchery Facility, located about 15 miles east of Seattle, offers prime viewing of returning salmon, and generally you can see migrating coho salmon through late November. There are numerous viewing points within the facility including a self-guided tour. For details, visit the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery website.
There are many other places around Washington to find returning salmon in the fall. You can find a helpful list of other salmon viewing locations on the WDFW website.