Kokanee Salmon

Hiking the Causey Reservoir

Every mid-September, the salmon at Causey Reservoir lay and fertilize eggs, turning a beautiful vivid red as they swim upstream. We hiked around the reservoir to see the fish, and I think it’s a fun hike every family should try to do. Here’s how to find the stream.

Cross the bridge that leads to the dam which holds Causey Reservoir in place, then take the road to the very end. There is a small parking lot and a trail head that will start you down a dusty trail along the back side of the lake. The first few hundred yards are a long, barren hill side that can either be somewhat close to the water or quite a bit above, depending on how much water the lake has that year. Once you turn the corner, you are in for a beautiful hike along the water and through forested areas. The trail will be well traveled in September as it is a storied experience to go see the Kokanee Salmon and is well known by many. The peak of the spawn is mid-September so if you want to make the trip set a reminder for next September.

The hike is about 2.2 miles and it is not technical. Our 7 year old son made it just fine. We even saw two moms that looked like sisters walk along the trail with 3-4 kids each, all of which seemed to be under 10 years old, and they made the hike no problem. The hike is picturesque and there are some views that are simply breathtaking. Bring a camera for sure.

In the last stretch before you make it to the spot, you will start to descend from a higher area and will come down into a canyon thick with brush, before turning back toward the lake and an inlet river. When I first walked out into the inlet area, I was taken back by how green and cool the area was. This September has been particularly warm and dry, so we were hot when we arrived and much of the shrubbery was browning from the dry heat. The temperature at the river was 8-10 degrees cooler and there was a beautiful green grass-like fern that spread across the river side and ran up the hills.

Looking into the river I could see hundreds of bright red Kokanee Salmon all swimming silently along the very clear water. The water isn’t high either, from a few inches to a foot or two max. They line up and find a spot where they lay and fertilize eggs, all at the same time. It is quite remarkable and the color of the fish is stunning.

If you are careful and don’t startle the fish, they will just hang out and do their thing. Please stay out of the water or you will crush the little fish eggs that they have laid and are trying to protect.

Though the window of their spawn is likely over by the time you read this, you can plan it for next fall. Well worth the hike. You can also reach the spot if you have some human-powered watercraft, such as a paddleboard or kayak.

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