Watching the Salmon Run of the Century in British Columbia

Check out our most recent post on the Adams River Salmon Run here!

We were told this Adams River salmon run would be the most amazing salmon run in 100 years, but nothing prepared us for the incredible sight of British Columbia’s Adams River teeming with thousands of crimson red Sockeye salmon thrashing and heaving their way upstream.

Group of Salmon in Adams River Salmon Spawning
Salmon Run of The Century

Adams River salmon run

Millions of salmon return to their spawning beds in the Adams River each year. Fighting their way from the Pacific ocean, the salmon swim 400 kms (250 miles) upstream, all to lay their eggs and die in the river they hatched from four years before.

Spawning Salmon in Adams River Dead
Sockeye Die After Laying Their Eggs

After all this, only one of 4,000 eggs lives to be an adult. Those that survive make their way to the Pacific, where they live until they repeat the cycle and return to the river four years later. It’s not fully understood how the salmon navigate back to their river of birth.

These photos and videos are from the salmon run in 2010, which saw over 100 million salmon. This was the single largest salmon run of this century, dwarfing the second largest in 1913.

Salmon Run of The Century Adams River
Spawning Sockeye Salmon

Every four years, the salmon migration dwarfs all others, and is called a dominant salmon run. Even on off years, over two million salmon return from the Pacific Ocean. For years, salmon numbers were in decline, so seeing this large a salmon run was great sign that BC’s salmon population was on the rebound. Chinook, pink, and Coho salmon also spawn in the Adams River.

Path Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park
Path at Path Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park

Where: Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.The park has viewing platforms where you can see the salmon as they’re squeezed through a narrow channel, walking paths, and educational and interactive booths. It’s an easy, flat hike along the riverbank, making it great for families, though you do have to watch out for little ones wandering into the river.

When to Go:  You can catch the salmon run during the first three weeks of October each year with the numbers typically peaking around Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (mid-October). Though you can see salmon spawning in any year, they come in the largest numbers every four years during dominant years (2014 and 2018). Sub-dominant runs in 2015 and 2019 should also see large numbers.

What Else To Do:  Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park is smack dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful lake country in British Columbia. You can rent a houseboat in the Shuswaps, or tour the great wineries around Kelowna (with a lot of fun things to do in Kelowna). If you’re staying in Kamloops with kids, the BC Wildlife Park is worth a visit. Chase is also now home to Treetop Flyers for those craving zipline adventures.

Where to Stay Near Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park

Camping – Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park doesn’t have any camping facilities, but Niskonlith Lake Provincial Park and Shuswap Lake Provincial Park are within a 20 minute drive.  Note that in mid October it can get quite cool at night and even some days so pack accordingly.

Hotels – If you’re planning a hotel stay, the closest hotel is Quaaout Lodge, about 6 km from the park. If you’re in town longer and want to explore other areas you can stay in nearby Kamloops, Salmon Arm or Chase.

Hostel – There’s an International Youth Hostel about 4 kms from the park in Squilax. It’s called HI – Shuswap Lake – Squilax General Store & Hostel.

How to Get There:  The best way to visit is by car. The nearest cities are Kamloops (50 minutes), Salmon Arm (40 minutes ), or the small town of Chase (10 minutes). Kelowna is a 1 1/2 hour drive. Vancouver is about five hours by car and Calgary is 7 hours by car through the beautiful Rocky Mountains. The nearest airport to Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park is in Kamloops.

More Information:  Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial ParkAdams River Salmon Society

Viator Tours in Kamloops

If you’re in the area, and you’re looking for something else to do, Viator offers several tours in the Kamloops area, including horseback riding, whitewater kayaking, ziplines and ATV tours. You can find them all on Viator here.

24 Responses

    • Micki Kosman

      Funny thing was, we only went because our little guy’s kindergarten class went earlier that week, and he came home raving about how interesting it was. Because it was so close to home, I think we discounted how cool an experience it would be. It was absolutely amazing to see an entire river alive with this writhing mass of crimson salmon.

  1. Christina

    What an experience! It’s one of those rare things that you can only do at certain times, which makes it extra special. No entry fee required either, and certainly something to write home about!

    • Micki Kosman

      Hi Christina,
      It was definitely a cool experience. There’s another big salmon run in 2014, so mark it on your calendar :). And free doesn’t hurt a bit either (we’re always watching our travel dollars). Thanks for checking us out!

      • Jenny


        When the run starts in 2014? How long the run last?



      • Charles Kosman

        Hi Jenny, 2014 is a dominant run with the chance of seeing millions of fish battling their way upstream to spawn. It should be a great year to go and if we’re in the province you can guarantee we’ll be there again.

        Usually the salmon return during the first 3 weeks of October with Thanksgiving being the peak weekend. This fall 2014 will be a great time to go and 2015 should be half decent as well.

        In 2014, the Adams River Salmon Society hold their Salute to Sockeye event from Friday October 3, 2014 to Sunday October 26, 2014. To get up to date information feel free to check out the Adams River Salmon Society page which can be found here.

  2. Fives OntheFly

    We’ve dreamed of seeing the salmon run after watching an episode of Nature’s Most Amazing Events by the BBC. Your post gives great information on the logistics of making it happen. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful experience!

    • Micki Kosman

      Thanks, guys! If you go, there’s an area at the mouth of Little Shushwap Lake where the water’s so shallow that the salmon need to literally crawl along the boulders to get to deeper water. So worth seeing.

  3. Vic

    Watching the salmon spawn is one of the most exciting natural sights in BC. It’s well worth a trip! We went every single year in school – and I still go each fall!

    • Charles Kosman

      It’s definitely nice to see and a good plus to living in this area of the world! I think we’ll definitely go check it out again this Fall. Micki never mentioned the fact that you could even see them jumping and swimming in the Thompson River while on their way to their breeding grounds. There was almost a solid line of them coursing through the river and jumping through the air. Definitely a cool precursor to the big show in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park.

    • Micki Kosman

      I’d highly recommend going. Amazing to think that it’s such an ancient ritual, which was going on millions of years before people ever came to this continent.

  4. iris

    what happened to 2012? would there be a salmon run at all? i assume that the run is for every 4 years but is there anything for this year?

    • Micki Kosman

      Hi Iris,
      Thanks for visiting! There’s a salmon run every year. Every four years there’s a dominant run, where salmon come in greater numbers, but they do come every year. The next dominant run will be in 2014. You can go see salmon in 2012 or 2013, but there will be fewer salmon (two to four million). It’s coming up soon – the salmon make their way to the Adams river by mid-October.

  5. Tom Devlin


    I grew up in Chase, so I’ve been to the Adams quite a few times. But it never ceases to amaze. There are few sights like it anywhere in the world.

    I now live in north central BC, even further from the pacific. But when I travel up the east shore of Takla Lake in the fall I stop at the bridges over the small creeks that feed the lake and there they are–red sockeye coming back to continue nature’s cycle. Maybe half a dozen fish, instead of millions, but there’s that same sense of wonder.

    I haven’t been back to the Adams in a decade, but I think I’ll start planning now for 2014. Thanks for promoting it: the more people who know about it, the more likely it is it will be protected going forward.

    • Micki Kosman

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks so much for stopping by! We’re hoping to stop by the salmon run again this year; even on a year with smaller numbers, it’s still cool to see. We’re also working on a few more articles about the BC interior right now. There’s just so much cool stuff to see and do in BC that we could be at it for a while! 🙂

  6. Lock Litaker

    Generally I do not read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up pressured me to try and check it out! Your writing has surprised me. Thank you, quite nice article.

  7. Ghana

    I am surprised see the salmon i such a large quantity at any natural place. you have also added some wonderful images in your blog too looking wonderful.

  8. Blair

    Just a couple of corrections. The spelling is Shuswap, not Shushwap. There are local accommodation near the Roderick Haig-Brown Park. One is the Quaaout Lodge which is a hotel run by the Little Shuswap Indian Band. It is about 6km from the park on Little Shuswap. There is also an international Youth Hostel 4km from the park. The North Shuswap has campgrounds and B&B’s. Chase and Sorrento are nearby but Kamloops and Salmon Arm are not close for accommodation.
    The Adam’s River Salmon Society does hosts smaller events on the Thanksgiving weekends on non-dominant years (2013, 2015, 1016, 2017).

    • Charles Kosman

      Hi Blair, thanks for catching that. Good to know there are a few places closer to the park for those that want to stay in the area. The salmon run is always great to see and it’s nice we live close enough to enjoy it every year.

  9. Travis

    Glad to see you made it out to the Salmon Run! And even better – you were there for the best one I can ever remember. We had been getting worried with the declining numbers, but the run in 2012 definitely restored our spirits.

  10. Darla

    We have enjoyed 2006, 2010 and will NOT miss 2014. Facinating and Educational

  11. Margery Lombard

    awesome hearing about the Adams River salmon run. I grew up near Enderby B.C.
    and remember going to the salmon run. totally phenomenal.. Haven’t been back in many years but was googling it this evening from Alberta and was reminiscing.
    Hope to see it again.

  12. Fish Jig

    The fact that salmon always return to the place of their birth is endlessly fascinating. I’d love to visit BC and see this first hand, I’ve read that the salmon population has actually increased in some regions in recent years which is always promising.


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