Salmon Cascades

You’ve heard the term “Salmon swimming upstream”, but if you ever get the chance to actually see it for yourself, you’ll realize just how inadequate that term really is.  Every year, between late October and Early November, Coho Salmon in the Sol Duc River return to their spawning ground, miles upstream.

I got a chance to witness this phenomenon myself recently and it is something I’ll not soon forget.

I’d heard the best location for Salmon watching is the Salmon Cascades Exhibit along Sol Duc Hot Springs Rd, so on a rainy Sunday, I headed there. I pulled into the small turnout next to a rustic restroom at the head of a path. I could hear the continuous rush of water and after a very short walk I came to the small viewing deck that juts out a few yards above the rocky cascades.

The crashing of the water down several tiers of rock was a relentless deluge. Nature was in full force. I watched for a few minutes, not really knowing what to expect. Had I missed the migration? Could fish really travel against this seemingly impassable hurdle? As the minutes ticked on, I thought I would definitely be returning home without spotting a single Salmon. Then something caught my eye.

At the bottom of the cascade, amid the churning current, I caught a glimpse of a long dark object that popped out of the white froth then disappeared again into the tumult. I shuffled my way between the exposed roots and stony steps to the right of the viewing platform and headed down towards the water’s edge.  I held my breath wondering if what I’d seen was an illusion or perhaps a tree branch being tossed about. But no! A two foot long, dark grey fish came flying up out of the river and crashed through the roiling curtain of falling water.  A gasp involuntarily escaped my lips.  Then it happened again. And again. And again.

I found myself rooting for these seemingly undaunted creatures, although not a single one appeared to actually make it up to the next level, where it would have to repeat the process three or four more times to make it to the top of the short cascades where the Sol Duc flattened out for some distance further upstream. Although I didn’t witness it that day, I know, obviously some do make it. But it is a task that requires Herculean effort, perseverance, and an instinctual belief in beating the odds.  So the next time I feel like complaining about some petty task like doing the laundry, I’ll try to remember how tough those Salmon have it.

Here’s a little sixty second video.  It’s in slow-motion, so the actual time it took for all three jumps was about eight seconds. Enjoy!

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