Salmon Run at Goldstream

It’s salmon spawning season at Goldstream Park! We headed out there twice last week to watch the fish (once with Sunshine’s homeschool group and once with Lily’s preschool). Thinking back, I realized this has been an annual event for us since we moved here. We went last year with Sunshine’s Kindergarten and the two years before that with her preschool, plus other trips out there as a family to hike.

The salmon run is really a lot of fun, especially when you’ve been out there at other times of year to see what it’s like when the fish aren’t there. The first time we went out was in early September, before the fish got there, and there wasn’t much to see. So we tried going again in late November, and all we found was dead fish everywhere. Mid-October to early November is about the best time, but you can always call the park to find out when a good time to visit is.

Salmon spawning at Goldstream Park

We met our group near the picnic area and hiked down to the Nature House together. There, the kids had a chance to look around before the naturalist told them the story of the Goldstream salmon, complete with cute pictures and lots of actions. Then we tramped back outside to go to the river with another naturalist, who had a dead salmon to dissect for us. The kids were really into that, even Jade, who wanted me to hold her up so she could see past everyone to what was going on.

On the way to the river, we saw a salmon fighting his way up a little stream. He was going the wrong way!!! We all felt sorry for the lost salmon. At the main river, the salmon were thick under the water. The girls loved standing on the bridge, staring down at the churning water. We could see one “boy” salmon that had obviously been fighting others and had a huge chunk bitten out of his back. There were lots of seagulls watching the salmon, waiting for a chance to feast, I guess.

This year, the river was really high. It’s been raining a lot lately, but I hadn’t really noticed—just figured we were into the rainy season on the island. At Goldstream, half of the trail we usually hiked was flooded, so we couldn’t go as far as did before. It was funny to watch the salmon fighting their way upstream along what used to be a trail. One salmon was halfway out of the water as he thrashed his fins and propelled himself forward.

Watching the salmon is exhausting. They’re working so hard and moving so slowly!!! And the entire life cycle of a salmon almost seems like an exercise in futility. The naturalist told us that each salmon girl will lay about 3000-4000 eggs; out of those eggs, only four salmon will make it back to Goldstream as adults. The others get eaten at various points in their lives.

After watching the salmon, we went back to the picnic area for a snack. One mom had brought firewood, hotdogs, and marshmallows, so she was very popular with the kids. We watched a squirrel running around a tree. Then we went back to the river to check on the salmon again before heading home.

If you’re on the island in the fall, drop by Goldstream. The leaves are falling in pretty colours, the scenery is pretty, and the salmon are fascinating to watch.

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