Aug 26, 2010
|Survival of the fittest on the Fraser River
Today we left Prince George and headed southeast on Highway 16, a stretch of Trans Canadian Highway known as the Yellowhead Highway. Our destination was the upper Fraser River north of Valemount.
The Fraser River flows west out of the Canadian Rockies. It makes a giant, 800 mile loop through British Columbia, and finally reaches Vancouver where it flows through the Strait of Georgia to the Pacific Ocean. (The route of the river is shown on the Homepage of this trip journal.)
The Fraser River is famous for it’s late summer run of Chinook Salmon. It is the longest run in the world of the biggest salmon in the world. How could we come here and not try to see it?
From Prince George (which is also on the Fraser) it’s almost 200 miles to Valemount, but it's a gorgeous drive through a ‘temperate inland rainforest’. We didn’t know it was a rainforest until we stopped at a roadside turnout and read it on a sign. Then the beauty of the road made perfect sense. The most striking characteristic of the drive was white mist rising from every canyon. We attributed the mist to today’s rain, but if this is a rainforest the mist must be a normal part of the ecosystem. This was one of the most memorable drives we’ve had in Canada.
Mid afternoon we reached the little town of McBride and a nice woman at the Visitor Information Center told us where best to see the salmon run. We checked out a couple of places she mentioned but saw no salmon. Our final stop was at Rearguard Falls, and there we were rewarded with quite a show. To quote the roadside sign:
“Rearguard Falls . . . Mark the upper limit of the 800 mile migration of salmon from the Pacific Ocean. Only a few Chinook, the largest and strongest of the salmon come this far. Look for them in late summer.”
There is another falls above Rearguard but it's higher and the fish can’t make the grade. This is the last place you can see them jumping - and jump they did! An hour of watching produced many sightings but only four photos that show fish. Catching a salmon mid-jump is no easy feat. They are only out of the water for a fraction of a second, and with digital cameras reacting as slowly as they do the chances of getting a picture are slim.
In the photos we have enlarged some of the images so you can see the color, which is coral and plum and, well, salmon. It should be mentioned that Rearguard Falls is on the highway to Jasper, and at the falls we were only fifty miles from places on the Alberta side of the divide that we visited last week. It's interesting to see the west side of the Canadian Rockies for a change. The valley we’re traveling is called the Rocky Mountain Trench because it's between the Rockies on the east, and the Caribou Mountains to the west. For a ‘trench’ it's a real beauty!
We ended the day at a funky campground in Valemont, to download our photos and congratulate each other on the few fish we managed to get. Madolyn got the best shot, and she also managed to catch a fish jumping in her video clip. It is worth the wait if you want to see it. Another great day goes into the history books!