with Salmon !Each fall millions
upon millions of salmon return to the coast of British Columbia, and the rivers
of their birth. Massive runs of salmon head up the Campbell River on Vancouver
Island to their freshwater spawning grounds, including Coho, Steelhead, Chum,
Chinook and Pink salmon. Viewing this natural spectacle from river banks is a
wonderful experience, but the migrating salmon can be viewed in a whole different
light on the Campbell River.|
Half a century ago, Roderick Haig-Brown donned a mask and snorkel to explore the
Campbell River and observe its salmon. Today, snorkel tours from Campbell
River on Central Vancouver Island allow adventurers the sensational opportunity
to swim with salmon in their natural habitat as they swim upstream toward the
gravel spawning beds. A vital spawning stream, the Campbell River drains 1,460
square kilometres in its journey from Vancouver Island's rugged interior mountains
to where it empties into Discovery Passage. The bottom of the river is rocky,
with depths of up to 3 metres (10 feet) in the deeper parts, allowing for easier
and unobstructed floating.
To protect the shallow
gravel spawning beds and avoid disturbing the spawning salmon, snorkellers enter
the river below the Quinsam River. The preferred put-in spot at the logging bridge
on the Gold River Highway 28 allows easy and safe access to the water from a sandy
shoreline and a slow moving pool. This is a good spot to learn the safety procedures,
check your equipment, gear up and get used to your equipment with your guide in
the calmer waters.
Take out is at the end of maple Street, behind the
Quinsam Hotel, or a slow moving deep water tidal pool in the estuary, which is
often visited by harbour seals looking for easy prey as salmon get trapped following
the tides in and out of the river. The huge rocks that mark the banks of the river
make exiting easy.
Wet suits are recommended,
as the Campbell River isn't really warm, and the additional flotation enables
the snorkeller to float high in the water and be carried over and around obstacles.
Lying quietly in the water and drifting with the current will not bother the salmon,
and more fish will be seen - splashing and diving will scare them away. Snorkelling
is best on sunny days, when the fish are more spectacular in the bright sunlight,
with their colouring bright and shining. Trout and crayfish can also be seen.
For added enjoyment on this natural adventure, snorkel with a buddy, use
common sense and exercise good judgement. Snorkelling in the river is invigorating
and thrilling, and the adrenaline rush of encountering a school of giant tyee
is a rare experience. One trip down the river is never enough, and the second
run is often more enjoyable as the comfort level is higher and you invariably
see and notice more.
Snorkel tours are run from early July to mid October.
Tour companies are based in Campbell River, and provide all equipment, expert
instruction and transportation. You can also rent the gear to float the river
- wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins.
Photos courtesy Paradise Found