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Okanagan Nature Nut: Nature’s most impressive show

Extraordinary salmon run is on now on the Adams River
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Rosanne Van Ee

Okanagan’s Nature Nut

Don’t miss the extraordinary Adam’s River sockeye salmon run! It’s happening now.

Millions of four year olds are running to their beds. Seriously! We’re talking about this year’s massive quadrennial Pacific sockeye salmon spawning run up the Fraser watershed to Adam’s River. These desperate sockeye risk their lives in an unimaginable feat for a once in a lifetime chance to mate. Their struggle is so taxing they succumb to their efforts only days after spawning. This is quite the show, so don’t miss it!

This year’s spectacular salmon run is an incredible natural event that will amuse thousands of spectators of all ages at the Adam’s River in Tsutsweck (formerly Roderick Haig-Brown) Provincial Park, northwest of Salmon Arm.

It’s a world class event! The Adam’s River Salmon Society coordinates the Salute To The Sockeye every four years with demonstrations and displays by BC Parks, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and local First Nations daily 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Oct. 23.

Everything’s mysteriously extreme about this deadly, life-renewing ritual. These large, once silver Pacific salmon miraculously transform to brilliant red bodies with green heads and tails. Hormones make the males grow humps and snouts with teeth for fighting. By sniffing the water chemistry along their almost 500-kilometre journey, they find their way to where they were laid as eggs only four years ago.

At back-eddies they mass up in teaming pools waiting to restore their energy to surge up the river, at times even having to leap out of the water over rocks or fallen trees. They fight for their piece of the river and their chosen partner. Males bite and grab others, flinging them away. This creates lesions that infect with fungus. Even though they haven’t eaten on this journey, they remain focused on fanning gravel redds (nests) with their tails to lay thousands of eggs and fertilize them. Once their deed is done, over the course of a few days, the adults succumb to their infections, starvation and exhaustion, then slip away with the current.

Eventually they land on gravel bars and river banks to become food for eagles, bears, weasels, flies and lots of other wildlife. Any remains enrich the riparian (habitats along the river’s edge) soils or is washed downstream to feed fish and other aquatic wildlife. When the sockeye fry emerge in the spring heading back to the ocean, they feed on the zooplankton that was enriched from the decomposed sockeye bodies. How amazing to witness this cycle of life!

All visitors to the site will pay an event fee which helps support the volunteer society’s efforts. See salmonsociety.com for more details. Weekends are busiest. If you have to go then, dress warmly and go early. Please don’t take your dog! The fragrant rotting fish and splish-splashy commotion is instinctively too enticing for our canine friends.

Read the excellent poster about these salmon on pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca, put sockeye in the search bar at the top then choose Lifecycle of the Adams River Sockeye.

Roseanne Van Ee enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Follow her on Facebook.

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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