The Best Places To Watch The Salmon Run On Vancouver Island

It’s salmon spawning season on Vancouver Island. With the changing of seasons marks the return of once-tadpoles to the streams where life began for them. From September until early December, you can bear witness to one of the most exciting natural phenomenons of the year across the Island. 

About Salmon Spawning on Vancouver Island

While different species spawn at different times of the year, Fall is one of the most popular and easily accessible times to view it. Salmon spend most of their time developing in small rivers and streams before heading out to sea, where they mature and spend the majority of their lives. Later, they return to the same river where they were born to lay or fertilize eggs of their own. After creating the next generation of salmon, they pass away and their bodies become part of the circle of life. 

Getting to their original stream, however, is no easy task. First, they must overcome several obstacles, fighting their way against the currents, through natural barriers, and evading predators.

Between the months of September to November and into early December, you can witness this journey first-hand at streams and rivers across the Island. 

Here are the 5 most popular places to see salmon spawning on Vancouver Island:

Goldstream Provincial Park


Only 25 minutes from downtown Victoria is Goldstream Provincial Park, where the Goldstream River meets the Saanich Inlet. Goldstream River is home to one of the richest salmon spawning locations on Vancouver Island, with species including Chum, Coho and Chinook. 

Access to the river at Goldstream Provincial Park is only a short trek away from the main parking lot on the northbound side of the highway. While there is parking available on both sides of the road, visitors should know that there’s no safe pedestrian access across the highway, so it’s strongly encouraged to park at the main lot. From there, you can walk  so we recommend starting your visit at the Nature House, situated on the east side of the highway. Park in the day use visitors area and walk 10 minutes down the Visitors Centre Trail. 

While you’re here, you might want to embark on one of the many trail hikes in the area, ranging from easier wheelchair accessible trails to more rugged, steep terrain.

Stamp River Provincial Park

Port Alberni

In the Central Island, you can see the salmon in Port Alberni at the Stamp River Provincial Park. Only 30 minutes northwest of Port Alberni, this park is home to beautiful Stamp Falls with a lush landscape and roaring river rapids. Near the entrance to the park is a fish ladder to help make the journey easier for salmon. 

You can catch Coho salmon spawning in August and October and Chinook spawning in September and October. Gather at the pool of Stamp Falls to see the fish circling before fighting their way up the falls, or find a lookout spot along the river to watch the fish make their way up the river to their spawning beds. 

Before heading home, stop at the Alberni Harbour Quay in downtown Port Alberni for a selection of waterfront shops and eateries — the donut shop is a must! Or if you want to learn more about the maritime history of the Alberni Valley and west coast, check out the Maritime Discovery Centre. 

puntledge river & the puntledge river hatchery

Comox Valley

Every year, the Puntledge River comes alive with one of nature’s most incredible spectacles: the salmon spawn. As the seasons shift and the temperatures drop, these resilient fish embark on an awe-inspiring journey from the vast expanse of the ocean back to their birthplace in the Puntledge River. With an innate sense of navigation, they swim against strong currents, leaping over cascading waterfalls, and overcoming countless obstacles in their quest to complete their life cycle.

The Puntledge River becomes a stage for this remarkable drama, as thousands of salmon return to their ancestral grounds. Their vibrant colors and sheer determination make for a breathtaking sight as they battle their way upstream, their bodies glistening with the shimmer of hope and survival. This natural phenomenon not only showcases the enduring spirit of these incredible creatures but also highlights the delicate balance of our ecosystem.

Visitors to the Puntledge River during the salmon spawn season witness a powerful reminder of the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. It’s a time to marvel at the beauty of nature, to reflect on the cycle of life and death, and to appreciate the importance of preserving our rivers and the habitats they provide. The salmon spawn on the Puntledge River is not just a spectacle; it’s a poignant reminder of the wonders of our natural world and the need to protect it for generations to come.

Englishman River Falls Provincial Park

Errington, Parksville

Every fall, Pacific salmon return to their ancestral home in the Englishman River. Against all odds, they embark on an arduous journey, swimming upstream against powerful currents and leaping over cascading waterfalls. Their vibrant colors and indomitable spirit make for a mesmerizing display, as they navigate the challenges of their incredible lifecycle.

The Englishman River’s salmon spawn is not just a spectacle; it’s a testament to the delicate balance of our ecosystems and the resilience of nature. It offers a chance for visitors to witness the circle of life in action, providing a deep appreciation for the interconnected web of life. It’s a reminder that our actions have a direct impact on the health of these remarkable creatures and the ecosystems they call home.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a curious traveler, or simply seeking a moment of tranquility in the heart of Vancouver Island, the salmon spawn on the Englishman River is a breathtaking experience that showcases the enduring beauty and importance of our natural world. It’s a reminder that we all play a role in preserving these precious habitats for future generations.

Quatse River estuary

Port Hardy

Nestled on the rugged north western coast of Vancouver Island, the Quatse River Estuary unveils an annual natural spectacle that leaves observers in awe – the salmon spawn. This remote and pristine sanctuary becomes a theatre for a breathtaking journey of survival and renewal.

As autumn descends and the Pacific salmon heed their ancient calling, they embark on a remarkable pilgrimage back to the Quatse River Estuary. Battling against powerful tides, they navigate the intricate channels and marshy flats of the estuary, tirelessly pushing upstream towards their birthplace. The sight of these magnificent fish, with their brilliant colors and unwavering determination, is a true marvel of the natural world.

The Quatse River Estuary’s salmon spawn is not just a spectacle; it’s a testament to the delicate balance of our coastal ecosystems and the resilience of nature. It provides an extraordinary opportunity for visitors to witness the circle of life in action, fostering a profound connection to the intricate web of life that sustains our planet. It reminds us of our shared responsibility to protect these critical habitats and safeguard the future of these incredible creatures.

For nature enthusiasts, explorers, and those seeking a deep connection with the natural world, the salmon spawn at the Quatse River Estuary is a poignant experience.

What to Know Before You Go

Remember, salmon spawning is not only for spectators, it’s also one of the most important times of the year for bears to stock up on nutrients before the winter ahead. Anytime you’re heading into the wilderness, always prepared and practice safe outdoor behaviours. If you see a bear, remain calm, stay still and do not run. Get your bear deterrent ready and back away slowly without turning your back. 

Additionally, the weather on Vancouver Island can be unpredictable so make sure you dress appropriately. Most of the salmon spawning destinations are easily accessible by well-maintained trails, but proper footwear and a warm raincoat can ensure your salmon spawning experience can be enjoyed to the fullest.

Lastly, try to avoid wearing brightly coloured clothing, such as reds, pinks and purples, as it can cause undue stress on the salmon if they spot you. Keep pets on a leash at all times and, if possible, find a higher location for the best view so they’re not tempted to hop in the water. 

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