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It's salmon time


Salmon run in the Deschutes River at Tumwater Falls Park. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Beginning in September and lasting through December, salmon run in our area. The fish return from the Pacific Ocean into the Puget Sound and then travel back to the streams and rivers of their birth to spawn the next generation. It is an epic tale of survival: A female salmon lays between 1,500 and 10,000 eggs; of those, less than 10 fish will make it back to their home stream.

There are two areas not far from Joint Base Lewis-McChord that offer great viewing opportunities, and each is a very different experience.

Tumwater Falls Park: The park has a nice paved trail that runs on both sides of the Deschutes River. Bridges cross in two spots, making for a nice round-trip hike with plenty of opportunities to view the chinook (a type of salmon).  This is the place to watch for the dramatic leaps as the salmon attempt to climb up the falls. It is an awesome feat of strength as they jump over and over again in their attempt to reach their spawning grounds. The sound of fish whacking against the rocks and concrete of the fish ladder can be gruesome. The white marks on some of the chinook are from this contact.  As you begin your walk downstream, note some grated areas where you can see down into the water below.  This is the salmon ladder. The chinook migrate from the Pacific Ocean into the Puget Sound and then to Capitol Lake until they begin their journey up the Deschutes River. The peak is usually the beginning of October. Insider tip: Take time to read the signs along the trail. There is interesting information about the history of the area. There is also a salmon hatchery on-site, and children will enjoy looking at the fish in the tanks.

Tumwater Falls Park, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 110 Deschutes Parkway SW, Tumwater, 360.943.2550

McLane Creek Nature Trail, Capitol State Forest: Start a new Thanksgiving tradition with a post-dinner walk on this trail. Chum salmon make their way up this creek from mid-November through early December. This trail is about one-and-a-half miles long, but it depends on how many overlooks you visit, which are off the main trail.  The trail is relatively flat and has a series of boardwalks that lead to viewing platforms. During the weekends and on Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday, Salmon Stewards, who are trained volunteers, will be available to answer questions about the chum salmon.

McLane Creek Nature Trail lacks the dramatic leaps and jumps seen on the Deschutes River, but it makes up for it by how close you can get to the salmon. The viewing platforms are right at the creek bed, and you can get a good view. At times, the creek is filled with salmon. Insider tip: You must have a Discover Pass to park in the lot, and there is nowhere to purchase one on-site so plan ahead.

McLane Creek Nature Trail, daily, 5044 Delphi Rd. SW, Olympia

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