Unreal Salmon Run in Port Alberni

Must-See Salmon Run at Stamp River

Salmon have taught me the value of perseverance. It may sound ridiculous, but after seeing a salmon run last October, I started thinking about these fish differently. Every year, salmon swim thousands of kilometres from the ocean to freshwater to spawn.

About half a million swim up Stamp River in Port Alberni between August and December each year. And so I made the 85-kilometre drive from Nanaimo to see what Trip Advisor described as an “Unreal Salmon Run.”

That’s when I learned how formidable these fish are. Salmon are world-class athletes. When headed to spawning sites, they swim an average of 50 kilometres a day against the current. If a marathon is officially 42.195 km (thanks Wikipedia), then these salmon pass the finish line, and then decide, well, we’ve still got energy, let’s keep going!

And it’s no ordinary marathon. It’s full of crazy obstacles like rapids, waterfalls, birds and bears. In many cases, salmon need to launch themselves out of the water to conquer rushing rapids and falls. Female Olympic athletes can jump about two metres high – so can a determined salmon.

To prepare for the launch, they hang out behind rocks, sheltered by the current. They rest just long enough to gather the strength needed to hurl their salmon bodies through the air.




Stamp River has a pretty extensive salmon ladder which helps with the journey. It has a network of tunnels with clear and grated tops, to allow viewing from above. There’s also a video camera in the channel that gives an up-close look at the salmon passing through. But salmon are tough, and lots prefer the old fashion route up the falls so they can smack danger in the face.


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Watching salmon fight their way up rapids, unfazed by the endless obstacles, instilled a new respect for these creatures. No matter what hurdles nature throws at them, they find ways to persevere.


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