Great places for families to watch salmon
Sockeye salmon jump up the falls.
Fall is here, and salmon are returning to streams and rivers around the Puget Sound. There are chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, steelhead, cutthroat trout, and, because it’s an odd numbered year, pink salmon. They are heading for the streams where they hatched, so they can spawn. They'll struggle through the current, compete with each other for mates and spawning spots, and then die in the streams (except for the steelhead, which returns to the sea). Here are some places to get a glimpse of this amazing journey.
We have divided them into places with educational tours and other places. On the places with tours you have the best chance of seeing fish, and, if you don't (the Lake Washington sockeye runs are low this year), you will still learn a lot.
Places with tours
Cedar River, Renton
Join the Cedar River Salmon Journey and see spawning sockeye – bright red fish with green heads – at four sites along the Cedar River near Renton. Experienced volunteer naturalists will be available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on several October dates at Jones Park, Cedar River Park, Cavanaugh Pond and Landsburg Park and Dam.
Issaquah Salmon Hatchery
Watch from the bridge and viewing windows as salmon make their way up Issaquah creek. You can visit the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery from September through November, dawn to dusk. In addition, trained docents from Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery will lead guided tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from September through early November. Visit www.issaquahfish.org for more information. The hatchery is located at 125 W. Sunset Way in Issaquah.
Hiram Chittenden Locks, Seattle
Watch salmon migrate up the 21 steps of fish ladder at Ballard's Chittenden Locks mid-June through October. You can see the ladder from outside, or go and view the fish through windows. Videos are on hand in case the fish don’t show up. July is peak time for sockeye, the last two weeks of August are the best times to watch chinook salmon, and the coho runs peaks during the last two weeks of September. Check the tide table before you go and try and go during, or just after, a high tide. Professional naturalists provide daily salmon talks at the fish ladder following free one-hour tours. Call 206-783-7059 for current information.
Piper's Creek, North Seattle
See hundreds of returning Chum and Coho make their way into Piper's Creek at Carkeek Park throughout November and December. On weekends during the return, salmon stewards greet guests by the creek to explain the salmon's life cycle, habitat and human influence on both. For the most fish, visit just after a high tide. On Sunday, Nov. 24, there will be special all-ages activities to welcome the salmon home. For information, visit the Carkeek Park Salmon Stewards Facebook page.
Bear Creek, Woodinville
Meet the salmon with help from Water Tenders volunteers on several dates in October. Head to the Tolt Pipeline where it crosses Mink Road Northeast (between Northeast 148th Street and Northeast 150th Place) in Woodinville. Park on either side of the road and walk east on the pipeline trail about one-half mile to the kiosk at Bear Creek. More information is available from www.watertenders.org.
Bear Creek, Redmond
View sockeye and chinook salmon in Bear Creek from late September to mid-November by visiting a short trail located behind Redmond's Keep It Simple Farm, located at 12526 Avondale Road N.E. This is a self-guided tour, although you may also call to schedule a docent-led group tour (suggested donation of $5 per person). To schedule a tour email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other salmon spots
Duwamish River, Tukwila and Seattle
Visit three sites – Codiga Park, Tukwila Gardens Park and North Wind's Weir – on the Duwamish River to glimpse pinks, chinook, coho and chum migrate to upstream spawning beds. For more information, check out the Duwamish SalmonSEEson page. Check out www.DuwamishAlive.org for information about the river, restoration efforts, and special events.
Kelsey Creek, Bellevue
You may see salmon returning to Kelsey Creek in October at the Mercer Slough fish ladder south of Southeast 8th Street in Bellevue and at the west tributary at Kelsey Creek Farm Park. There is a webcam providing views on what is going on in the creek. Call or email for updates before you go: 425-452-5200 or email@example.com.
Lake Sammamish State Park, Issaquah
Lake Sammamish State Park has a boardwalk trail near where the lake feeds into Issaquah Creek. This where several salmon species make their final journey from the lake up the creek to the salmon hatchery and beyond. The best viewing occurs mid-September through mid-October, with numbers usually highest in early October. Here is a map of the park. You will need a Discover Pass to park at the state park. There is an automated pay station in the parking lot where you can buy one.
Ebright and Lewis Creeks, near Lake Sammamish
If you are patient and lucky, you might see little kokanee. They are the same species as sockeye but spend their whole lives in freshwater streams and lakes. From early November through late January these native fish run at creeks feeding into Lake Sammamish. The runs have been quite small, and scientists are worried the Sammamish Kokanee are near extinction. Here's some more information, including a map showing where to look for them.
Sammamish River Trail, Redmond
Spot adult coho, sockeye and chinook salmon in September and October as they migrate up the Sammamish River to their spawning grounds in Bear Creek. Contact Peter Holte at 425-556-2822 or firstname.lastname@example.org for current information on where salmon have been seen, and when and where expert city staff will be available to answer questions.
More fall family activities
Check off an adventure from our Fall Family Bucket List.
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