Let the mountains move you in Valemount, a quiet mountain town in British Columbia’s North Thompson Valley in the Thompson-Okanagan Region.
Where to see the Salmon Run in the Valemount Area
I’ve decided that catching the salmon jumping the waterfall at Rearguard is part luck and part patience. While my patience is endless, my daughter’s is not so much.
For approximately three weeks a year, driven by instinct, Chinook and Sockeye salmon travel through different waters passages in our community. By the time they reach the Swift Creek and Fraser River, where you can view them locally, they have already travelled over 1,300 kilometres.
Valemount offers three different locations to view the Salmon spawning. The most convenient place, which also allows you to see the salmon in great detail, is the viewing platform at George Hicks Regional Park. There is a beautiful little trail that takes you down to the creek right from the Visitor Information Centre. Alternatively, you can also drive down to the lower parking pad. Take a minute to read the billboards that share interesting information about the salmon and their lifecycles, as well as some local history. The viewing platform and bridge offer several different chances to spot the salmon. Since they have already turned a deep reddish brown, they often blend in to the rock below but it doesn’t take a trained eye to catch a fin or a splash.
One of the most unique places to watch the salmon is Rearguard Falls, approximately 25 km north-east of Valemount. This section of the river is nearing the end of their journey and only the strongest of salmon will make it up the falls. Spotting the salmon here can be a little tricky. If you look in the protected pools lining the falls, you will catch a silhouette or two as the salmon conserve their energy for their next big attempt. The deep red of their bodies will be in stark contrast to the teal blue water. During our most recent visit to Rearguard falls, my daughter and I patiently waited for the salmon to jump up the falls. After a few moments of searching we found several resting in the pools. We made harmless bets about which one was going to attempt the perilous leap first, and watched for brief glimpses of fins amid the thick white rapids. Alas, watching the same spot for 20 minutes can only entertain a 9-year old for so long. Content with our salmon spotting abilities, we decided to pack up and try our luck another day.
The final place that you can see the salmon is the Tete Jaune Spawning Grounds. This lesser known location is approximately 20 km outside of the town of Valemount. Head north from Valemount, turning left onto Blackman Road. Follow Blackman Road until you reach Old Tete Jaune Cache Road. Once you cross the tracks you will see the sign on the right. This section along the McLennan River receives less tourist traffic, so you may have a chance to see wildlife. Quite often, if you follow the old beaten path down to where the McLennan meets the Fraser, you can catch hungry eagles soaring above the waters.
George Hicks Regional Park is accessible for people with mobility restrictions. The Tete Jaune Spawning Grounds is a periodically maintained trail, and not mobility friendly. The walk down to Rearguard Falls is approximately 30 minutes return, with some minor elevation loss to the waterfall. The wooden viewing platform at the waterfall is well fenced and comprised of several different levels, with staircases in-between. Please adhere to local regulations about viewing etiquette.