Salmon Spawning is Happening!

There are many spots within the Gorge to view this iconic display. One popular and easily accessible area to witness this incredible Pacific Northwest event is on the Eagle Creek trail between the trailhead and the hatchery, especially if you cross the wooden footbridge labeled “Gorge Trail.” If you don’t find any reddish-pink flashes or swirls of migrating salmon in this location just head to your nearest tributary of the Columbia and you should be able to spot either Sockeye, Chinook, or Coho Salmon. If the water is shallow you may even be able to see their dorsal fin and caudal fin splashing on the surface. If you see the salmon chasing each other you are probably either witnessing a male following a female or a male fending off another male.

The salmon that have returned to spawn will stop eating when they return to the freshwater. They reserve just enough energy to reproduce once they find their nesting spot. It’s important to respect these spawning areas and to not disturb the salmon or the gravel beds where they lay and fertilize the eggs. You may see the females turn on their side and whip their tales to build a nest. The female will then lay thousands of eggs while the males fertilize them. In the case of the Coho and Chinook the male will then hang around the fertilized eggs to protect them until he is preyed upon or until he dies. This process may be a few days or it may be several weeks. The salmon that die after spawning will become food for a variety of animals including insects that will in turn be eaten by the offspring.

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