Several Whatcom creeks offer chance to see spawning salmon

A salmon jumps at the fish ladder in Whatcom Creek in November 2014.
A salmon jumps at the fish ladder in Whatcom Creek in November 2014. The Bellingham Herald

Fall in Whatcom County brings the opportunity to see salmon, one of the iconic symbols of the Northwest, as they head upstream to spawn.

Spawning runs vary by species and by month, but salmon generally can be seen in several area creeks from late October to early December. Whatcom Creek, Chuckanut Creek and Padden Creek offer good viewing from several locations.

Holly Roger of Wild Whatcom, a local outdoor educational organization, said Chuckanut Creek at Arroyo Park is among the best places locally to see salmon heading upstream to spawn.

“We go to Arroyo Park for the chum (salmon). You’re certain to see them there,” she said. “Just go to the right from the parking lot. They’re big and impressive.”

Several species of salmon can be seen on the lower stretches of Whatcom Creek in Maritime Heritage Park near the fish ladder, where anglers congregate.

Salmon also can be seen from a footbridge at Salmon Park along the Redtail Reach portion of Whatcom Creek. The bridge is near the south end of Racine Street, behind King Nissan.

Another popular site is the from the Mosquito Lake Road bridge over the north fork of the Nooksack River, near Truck Road.

Along the North Lake Whatcom Trail you’ll find kokanee, also called silver trout, which are a small, non-migrating form of sockeye.

“We always go at Thanksgiving,” Roger said. “Anywhere there’s a stream and you can hear it running, all along the trail.”

For best salmon viewing, Roger favors a waterfall about 15 to 20 minutes’ walk from the trestle-like covered footbridge that has interpretive information about the area’s railroading past. It’s about one mile from the trailhead.

“That’s the most lovely place to watch. Go left and listen for water, look for culverts and you can see them gathering. They’re bright red and really cute; not very big.”

North Lake Whatcom Trail (also called Hertz Trail) is a county park at the end of North Shore Road. Parking is free and there’s a pit toilet in the parking lot. The route follows an old railroad line, so the trail is easy and level.

Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com. Tweeting @DressLikeADuck.