After a cold Autumn Saturday, Sunday dawned warm and sunny, a perfect day to go see one of Mother Nature's wonders.
I headed up to the Harrison area of the Fraser Valley, approximately 80 miles from Vancouver BC. Specifically, I was aiming for the Chehalis Fish Hatchery and the Weaver Creek Spawning Channels. Here you can view thousands of Chum, Pink and Sockeye salmon doing what they have done for a millennia, returning to exactly the same stream from whence they hatched 4 or 5 years ago, with thousands of miles of ocean travel between birth and their return.
My first stop was the Chehalis Fish hatchery; the Chehalis River right the hatchery behind was a hot bed of activity with rods and reels sashaying back and forth through the air. The fishermen were out in full force, on the Chehalis and it's tributaries in the area they were literally shoulder to shoulder, all after the elusive bright red Sockeyes.I watched for a while as they repeatedly cast the waters, but only the Pinks were biting. Any Pinks caught were returned to the waters to carry on up river to complete their journey or to be caught again on the waiting lure of the next guy in hip waders.
Right behind the fishermen was a small channel of slow moving water, and it was alive with the thrashing of Pink and Chum salmon as they carved out a niche in the gravel in which to lay their eggs. On the wind was a whiff of natures cycle in progress. The smell of decaying fish was mild, not like it would be in a couple of months.
The dying and decaying fish will provide food for Great Blue Herons, Seagulls and of course, the Bald Eagles. The Eagles have not yet arrived, it's still a few weeks too early, but I'll be back when they are.
Eventually, I moved on and drove 5 miles up Morris Valley Road to the Weaver Creek Spawning Channels. The channels are actually one big channel, over 3 kilometres long which loops back and forth throughout the facility. The channel is a man made channel, only 1.5 feet deep filled with clean gravel, excellent bedding for fish redds (fish nests).
Only a pre-determined amount of fish are allowed in the channel at a time, this prevents over crowding and poor egg survival. Too many fish and the salmon only succeed in disturbing the other fish redds. Only three species of salmon are allowed to spawn here, Chum, Sockeye and Pink. To create optimum mating, the ratio of fish allowed is 2 male for every 3 females. Excess and non-desired fish are sorted into a bypass channel and allowed back into Weaver Creek above the facility to spawn naturally.
After walking the extensive grounds, I climbed back into the Jeep and headed back down the Chehalis and carried on to the Harrison River. I stopped where the bridge on Hwy# 7 crosses the Harrison, got out the binoculars and looked upstream at the vast mud flats. Here the air was more pungent, indicating higher amounts of decaying fish in the river. Still no Eagles to see, but acres of Seagulls, Great Blue Herons, crows, and fishermen in hip waders standing in the shallow waters along the banks. In the middle of the flats, near the main channel, more fishermen had beached their boats on the flats to try their luck in the swifter water.
By now it was getting late in the afternoon and as Annette was working, I was the one to get dinner ready. I joined the crowds of people who had been touring the fish facilities, and we drove back towards Vancouver like a giant centipede meandering along the turns of the country road.
Eddie in Vancouver