Salmon Watching in Port Hope, Ontario

salmon jumping up fish ladder

Salmon Watching in Port Hope, Ontario. September, 2014

I love new experiences and today was definitely a new experience.  A group of us went salmon watching in Port Hope in Ontario.  It’s about an hour drive east from Markham and I’m glad that we headed out the door early in the morning.  It was pouring rain when we left on our mini road trip and a few of us were concerned that there would be thunderstorms and we wouldn’t be able to safely get out to watch the salmon run.  Fortunately, as we drove closer to the Ganaraska River fishway where the salmon were, the rain subsided and the sun came out from behind the clouds to provide us with a beautiful and breezy summer morning. ^_^

Port Perry salmon watching

It took us a little bit of time to find this dam, but we made it! 😀

stream in Port Perry

We saw lots of people walking out to the shallow stream to fish for salmon

I’ve never watched salmon swimming upstream before in a natural environment and was excited to see what it was all about.  I didn’t have very high expectations of it because I didn’t think watching fish would be so exciting.  However, I’m so, so glad that I got to see this!  (For those wondering where it is, it is at the Ganaraska River in Port Hope at the fish ladder on Cavan St.)

Port Perry salmon watching

Powerful water rushing down from the fishway

I first learned about salmon migration from the childhood show, Magic School Bus, where it taught us that salmon will migrate and swim many many kilometres from the ocean where they reside and back to the place where they were born in the small streams in order to lay eggs for their next generation.  Then they take the journey back to the ocean or die during the process.  It’s such a sacrifice but also a worthy one so that the little ones can have a chance to be born and grow up in the small streams before getting bigger in the ocean.

Hundreds of salmon in Port Perry watch

There were hundreds of salmon!

When we approached the stream, we saw hundreds and hundreds of salmon swimming in the stream.  They were all headed toward the tall dam where water was rushing downwards.  Dozens of big salmon were seen jumping out of the water and trying to get up to the other side.  There was a big, tall dam and also a smaller one to the left-hand side.  We noticed that all the salmon who actually succeeded in getting to the other side used the small chute to the side where the water wasn’t as high or fast.  It was so incredible to see these fish swim aggressively and fight to get to the other side.

series of photos showing salmon jumping ladder

Salmon jumping!

man watching salmon watching

This is the other side that the salmon arrive at after jumping up and rushing through the water — calm and peaceful stream

It actually made me a bit sad to see them not succeed — whenever they jumped into the air and hit themselves on the wall. 😦  It really gives me a sense of how nature is unforgiving.  You have to be physically strong and have a strong sense of purpose and direction in order to succeed.  In this case, if you lack those qualities, you don’t end up passing on your genes to the next generation and you eventually perish in the water.  There’s something about watching all these salmon try to jump to the other side that really made me understand furthermore that life is all about challenges and it’s up to you to overcome them by working hard.  We came up with a lot of analogies from watching these salmon in their journey. =)  (It also makes you realize that everything in life comes from hard work, effort, and perseverance.  Without this, if you were like some of the salmon who were swimming just casually in the water and not even attempting to jump the dam, you would be stuck in the same place and die.)

Port Perry salmon watching

I’m so glad that we got there around 11 a.m. in the morning. Look at all these people and the crowd as we were leaving!

It was ironic because after we watched these salmon struggle to give life, we went out to eat all-you-can-eat sushi and had salmon and sashimi. >.<

About stenoodie

I'm a stenographer, foodie, avid traveller, and new mom who loves to share her experiences with the world.
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17 Responses to Salmon Watching in Port Hope, Ontario

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  3. Pedro says:

    Bookmarked your amazing website. Fabulous work, unique way with words!

  4. litadoolan says:

    That is so cool. Thank you for sharing this. Swimming upstream looks like so much effort, strong salmon!

  5. ken says:

    Is this weekend Oct 10th still a good time to watch salmon run?

  6. D says:

    This Dam in Port Hope is not natural setting and destruct the natural habitat of salmon. It creates a barrier for salmon to swim back to their born place and complete their life cycle to give birth to next generation of salmon, so to speak.

    In Seattle, they build a salmon ladder along the side of river with lower gradient and therefore less rapid water flow for the salmon to take a breathing space between each jump on to the next higher step. It thus facilitate the salmon to return to their breeding ground at upper stream. This is what should be done correctly for wild life preservation.

    The Dam at Port Hope was not designed for preservation of salmon habitat. What a pity. What a disgrace. What a sad scene to see the salmon’s frustration jump.

    • stenoodie says:

      Thanks for the comment! You should e-mail and contact the people responsible for this dam in Port Hope to vent your frustrations. This is just a blog entry based on my personal experience. Perhaps they will be able to correct the ladder to better the salmon and their futures!

    • Me says:

      Might want to do a bit of research before you criticize. Yes, Corbett’s Dam is a barrier for the fish; it was constructed by a well-meaning 19th-century local in an effort to bring electricity to the town. And for 75 years, the salmon and trout were prevented from reaching their spawning beds without assistance (although they were apparently manually lifted during this time). In 1974 a fish ladder WAS constructed and it remains in place to this day – that “chute” the OP blogged about (and took 1/2 dozen pictures of)? That’s the fish ladder!! It’s not really open so all you can really see is the entrance, but I think it has nine tiers, each 1 ft higher than the last. Unfortunately, fish don’t take direction very well so some will try to take on the dam (or get bogged down in shallow areas and shoals)before discovering the ladder.

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  10. Robbie says:

    I watched the salmon run and also found it sad. But it didn’t feel like nature was harsh. Rather it was the man made obstacles that made the run so difficult. makes me think of the damn as patriarchy: include a salmon ladder for all the white dudes and watch the rest of us try to struggle over this obstacle we almost forget is there.

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