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Salmon at Winthrop Hatchery
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Salmon Viewing Locations on the Loop

Salmon of the Pacific Northwest return to the stream where they were 'born' because they instinctively know it is a good place to spawn. Scientists believe that salmon navigate by using the earth’s magnetic field like a compass. When they find the river they came from, they start using smell to find their way back to their home stream. They use their memory of the smells built when they migrated to the ocean as a young fish.

For more great information Q&A from students learning more about Salmon, visit the USGS FAQ site

The following is a list of traditional salmon viewing areas near the Cascade Loop. 

Osprey Park, Sultan

Osprey Park is a short drive off the highway near Sultan. It is 85 acres of wetland and riparian habitat following the Sultan river, with two miles of gentle trails where you can see hundreds of ducks and birds, plus thousands of Chinook, coho, chum, and pink salmon, are frequently observed during the fall spawning season. This is a great place to watch for and observe spawning salmon especially pink salmon during odd years, when they return.

This park offers front-row seats to this phenomenon as well as walking trails to the Sultan River that are accessible to wheelchairs and baby strollers. Let the kids get their wiggles out in the baseball field, basketball court or playground. Join hundreds of other guests here at the Return of the Salmon Celebration each September. Watch the Event Calendar for details!

Tumwater Canyon in Fall

Wenatchee River (Tumwater Canyon section)

At varied pull-outs along U.S. Hwy 2 from Tumwater Campground to the west, to the outskirts of Leavenworth to the east.

Directions: Take U.S. Hwy 2: coming from west, Tumwater Canyon of the Wenatchee River begins at the highway bridge crossing near Tumwater Campground and continues with highway proximity to near the outskirts of Leavenworth; viewing is possible at available pull-outs beside the highway both above and below Tumwater Dam; Swift Water Picnic Area is a particularly easy area to access about 6.5 miles west of Leavenworth.

Coming from east, Tumwater Canyon of the Wenatchee River begins just west of outskirts of Leavenworth and continues west to the U.S. Hwy bridge crossing just before Tumwater Campground; viewing is possible at available pull-outs beside the highway both above and below Tumwater Dam.  Swift Water Picnic Area is a particularly easy area to access about 6.5 miles west of Leavenworth and is about the only safely accessible area when traveling east.

Approximate stream mile point: River Mile 26.4-35.6

Species to be anticipated: wild fall Chinook salmon

Time of year for viewing: Chinook mid Sep-through Oct

Viewing of wild chinook salmon spawning in the Wenatchee River

Rocky Reach Discovery Center Fish Ladder

Rocky Reach Dam Fish Ladder

5000 State Highway 97A (7 miles from Wenatchee, Washington)

A highlight of any visit to the Rocky Reach Visitor Center is the opportunity for a close-up view of fish passing through the fishway. The fish viewing room, with five windows located on the west side of the fish ladder, allows visitors to watch salmon, steelhead, trout and other species continue their upstream migration to spawning areas.

Salmon and steelhead are seasonal visitors. The best months of the year to see chinook salmon are May and August. Sockeye salmon are most visible during July, and it's September for steelhead. "Look a salmon in the eye" in the fish viewing room, located downstairs in the Visitor Center at Rocky Reach Dam.

Stop by the Discovery Center in the fall to view the Chinook, coho and steelhead runs. Earlier the better – these autumnal salmon runs typically conclude early- to mid-November. If you’re lucky, you might even see a lamprey (pictured), which wiggle by every couple of days. With the Discovery Center’s new full-length windows, even the littles can look a salmon in the eye. 

Get hands-on at the Discovery Center year-round every Tues- Sat from 9:30am-5pm for FREE.

Newhalem Ponds (upper Skagit River)

Off North Cascade Highway (Highway 20) about a mile downstream of Goodell Creek.

Directions: Take the Arlington Exit off I-5 (first phase east on SR 530 past Arlington and Darington and then north to Hwy 20 junction at Rockport); at Rockport turn right heading east toward Marblemount & Newhalem; continue past Marblemount and past Skagit/Whatcom county line; past Thornton Creek there is a gravel road to the right that abruptly has a T; turn right and follow to gate; park so as not to block the gate and hike to the ponds via the gravel road that transitions to differing primitive trails that access the ponds. Take the Hwy 20 exit turning right to go through Burlington and then going east   through Sedro-Woolley, Concrete, Rockport, and Marblemount; from there follow same as above.  

Species to be anticipated: wild coho salmon; wild sockeye salmon; wild chum salmon; wild pink salmon (odd years only); wild winter-run steelhead

Time of year for viewing: coho Nov-Jan; sockeye late Sept-Oct; chum salmon Nov-Jan; pink salmon Sep-Oct (odd years such as 2011 only); steelhead Feb-June

Via complex often unimproved trails the above species can sometimes be sighted swimming in, or spawning in upwellings in the ponds, others in the small connecting streams.

Illabot Creek groundwater channels

Rockport/Marblemount- Illabot Rd off of Rockport-Cascade Rd (short distance above Skagit River)

Directions: take State Route 530 off of I-5 going east then north to Darrington & Rockport; about one mile before Rockport, turn right onto Rockport-Cascade Rd; continue about 4.5 miles crossing Illabot Creek bridge; shortly after turn left on graveled Illabot Rd; drive slowly due to potholes; after about 1 mile O'Brien Ck is crossed and then an excavated groundwater channel shortly after with room to pull over; at about 1.5 miles there is parking & turnaround at end of road next to a groundwater pond  

Species to be anticipated: wild coho salmon; wild chum salmon; wild pink salmon (returns limited to odd years like 2017); rarely wild steelhead

Time of year for viewing: coho late Oct-Jan; chum Nov-Dec; pinks Sep-Oct (odd years only); steelhead Feb-June

Species listed above can be seen swimming in the groundwater channel and pond and actively spawning if timing is right; on occasion salmon activity may also be sighted at the O'Brien Creek crossing  

Squalicum Creek (at Cornwall Park)

Cornwall Park is located at 3424 Meridian Street, Bellingham

Directions: Take the I-5 Meridian exit (#256); turn left (south) on Meridian Street; pass the country club and two park entrances will be on the left off Meridian past the Birchwood intersection.

Species to be anticipated: coho & chum salmon of unknown origin

Time of year for viewing: coho & chum Nov-Dec

Coho & chum spawning activity may be sighted at the park footbridges across creek; there is also a waterfall area to potentially view salmon

Chuckanut Creek (at Arroyo Park)

Near South Bellingham/Fairhaven - Arroyo Park off Chuckanut Drive on Old Samish Rd

Directions: From I-5, take Fairhaven exit and go west about 1.5 miles toward Fairhaven on Fairhaven Parkway; at 12th St traffic light turn left to Chuckanut Drive as sign indicates; continue southward on Chuckanut Drive and at Old Samish Rd bear left to parking area for Arroyo Park.

Species to be anticipated: coho salmon of wild & hatchery origin; chum salmon of wild origin

Time of year for viewing: coho Oct-Dec; chum Nov-Dec

From the footbridge in Arroyo Park coho and chum spawning activity might be visible in a natural forest setting and for more adventure to extend the visit there is the option to hike the Interurban Trail

Salmon at Winthrop Hatchery

National Fish Hatcheries

We have several National Fish Hatcheries on the Cascade Loop, which offer an educational experience when you explore the grounds and learn about fish species. 

Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery

Located along beautiful Icicle Creek just outside of Leavenworth, this hatchery grounds is a spectacular location to picnic, observe wildlife, learn about the salmon life cycle, and enjoy a nature walk year-round. They host a variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the year.

Entiat National Fish Hatchery

Currently, they raise and release up to 400,000 summer Chinook salmon every year. The fish complete a 490 mile journey and pass through eight dams during their life. Twice! Of the hundreds of thousands of smolts released each year, some 2,000 adults will find their way back to their "home" at the Entiat hatchery.

Winthrop National Fish Hatchery

Currently raises 200,000 steelhead, 400,000 spring Chinook, and 250,000 coho salmon for release into the Methow River. Salmon and steelhead must travel 574 river miles between the hatchery and the Pacific Ocean. They welcome visitors! Stop by and follow there self-guided map to view the grounds. In summer, volunteers may be on hand to show you around.