Bumper-to-bumper traffic and high rises popping up on every block can make us forget about the natural wonderland just outside of the metro area. By taking a short trek east or west, we can breathe the fresh air, escape the noise and witness an incredible natural phenomenon happening right in our city’s backyard: salmon spawning.
The annual salmon migration happens right here in the streams, creeks and rivers near our neighborhoods. In the places where the water gets shallow and the flow becomes a fall, salmon navigate the current in an upriver battle to their native waterways to lay their eggs. This makes for optimal viewing right from the shoreline.
In some cases, they even have to navigate dams, locating the fish ladder and making the up river journey to calmer waters above the concrete barricades. It is truly a magnificent and harrowing journey.
Experiencing the salmon spawning viewpoints near Portland is a great activity for nature lovers. And if you’re like me, it may be the highlight of the whole season to see the determination of these creatures to carry out a mission engrained into their very being.
Salmon spawning season in the Portland area starts in the late summer and lasts well into the fall depending on salmon species (approximately September 1-December 1).
Listed below are the salmon spawning locations near Portland. Many of these locations are very accessible and make great day trips with family and friends.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that most of these locations are free to visit? With a little bit of gas money, you’ll be able to witness one of the Pacific Northwest’s best natural phenomenon.
Salmon Spawning Near Portland
This is where my earliest memories of seeing salmon spawning happened. The Bonneville Dam has a great interpretive center complete with an incredible fish ladder that can be viewed both outside for an aerial view of salmon swimming upstream and inside for an underwater peek at the salmon in action. At the visitor’s center, you’ll see Chinook and coho spawning.
The Bonneville Dam is open 7:30 a.m. to dusk daily and located at 70543 NE Herman Loop in Cascade Locks, just 45 minutes from Portland.
Crystal Springs Creek
Thanks to the Crystal Springs Creek Restoration Project, you can now see salmon spawning in Portland! At Westmoreland Park, you can watch salmon, including coho, Chinook, and steelhead, migrate through Crystal Springs Creek to the ocean and back again to spawn.
While you’re there, consider visiting Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
Westmoreland Park is located at SE McLoughlin Blvd and Bybee Blvd. That park is open 5 a.m. to midnight.
Oxbow Regional Park
Oxbow Regional Park has a great salmon-viewing trail where you can spot Chinook and coho. Start at the Alder shelter following the fence and river as you look for salmon while heading to the beach area. The route is about 1.5 miles. For more viewing areas, check out the park’s salmon homecoming guide.
The park is open seven days a week. Fall hours are 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oxbow Regional Park is at 3010 SE Oxbow Parkway in Gresham.
Head west toward the coast to Humbug Creek, located behind the Camp 18 Restaurant and Museum along Highway 26. Get a tasty bite to eat and then mosey behind the building to the creekside, where you can to spot salmon spawning this fall.
Humbug Creek is roughly an hour from Portland and can be accessed at 42362 US-26 outside of Seaside.
Located along Eagle Creek, Cascade Hatchery gives visitors an incredible view of spawning salmon as they make their way from the Columbia River. You’ll see native Chinook and coho salmon on their journey.
The Cascade Hatchery is open 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. It is located just 45 minutes from Portland along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge at 74152 NE Eagle Creek Loop in Cascade Locks.
Old Salmon River Trail
Take a beautiful hike near Mount Hood to see salmon spawning this fall. The Old Salmon River Trail is a 2-mile family-friendly trail that parallels the Salmon River surrounded by the old growth forest.
The only downside is this location does require a valid Northwest Forest Pass or $5 parking pass.
Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery
Farther along the salmon’s journey, some will return to the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery. Starting in late September, coho salmon return to the hatchery. The hatchery keeps a running list of how many salmon have arrived.
Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery is an hour from Portland at 34288 Southeast Rainbow Road in Estacada. The hatchery is open 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday during fall hours.
Tillamook Forest Center
Located along Wilson River, the Tillamook Forest Center offers nature lovers so many fun activities, including prime viewing of the yearly spawn. A 250-foot long suspension bridge over the Wilson River offers excellent salmon watching viewpoint.
This center is free to visit and it is free to partake in all programs. A $5 donation is suggested. Fall hours at the center are Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is located about an hour from Portland at 45500 Wilson River Highway in Tillamook.
We are lucky to live in an area with so many streams, creeks and rivers teeming with life. Go check your nearest waterway and see if you can spot a salmon or two!
You might also like: