The great salmon run

Once a year, salmon embark on an epic quest. They swim hundreds of miles — battling currents, escaping predators — never stopping to eat. 

Let’s follow them on their journey to see what’s all the rush!

The incredible journey of the mighty salmon


It begins in the very river where they are born. Baby salmon hatch from their eggs and spend a couple of years in that river before setting off downstream, towards the vast ocean. 

They stay a few years, frolicking in the ocean waves, while improving their swimming skills and growing into strong fishies.

But then comes the moment to return home. There are obstacles aplenty… hungry bears preparing to hibernate, swift birds ready to snatch in a second, currents strong enough to push a big truck…

Salmon can jump up to 12 feet in the air to conquer these obstacles.

That’s almost as high as a giraffe!

Once they reach the spot where they were born, the journey continues… 

They look for a partner, changing their colors to make themselves prettier. Then, the females dig nests with their tails. Each female lays between 1,500 and 5,000 eggs.

At last, most salmon lay to rest, their mission complete. Now it’s the babies’ turn to keep the salmon family growing. Some species repeat their journey one more time.

Why do salmon travel so far?

When salmon are young, their instincts (and their bellies) tell them to swim downstream, where there’s more food. 

As adults, those same instincts tell them the river will be safer for the little ones. After all, they did well there, so it must be a good spot.  

How do salmon find the spot where they were born?

1) They use the Earth’s magnetic field

Many animals have a special sense that works like a compass. They feel changes in the magnetic pull of the Earth and use it to navigate their way home, even if it’s thousands of miles away.

Birds, turtles, butterflies, and other animals migrate the same way. 

2) They follow their keen sense of smell

Who would have thought that salmon have a stronger sense of smell than dogs or bears? They also have a sharp memory — salmon remember the smell of their own river.

When they leave the ocean, their noses tell them which river to enter. That’s also how they find the exact spot where they started life. 

Sometimes, salmon can’t find their own river. In that case, they keep looking until they get tired or they settle for a new home that looks cozy.

Eager to see the amazing spectacle?

Head to the best spots to cheer for the salmon swimming upstream:

  • Campbell River in Canada
  • Ballard Locks in the USA
  • Kenai River in Alaska 

Don’t miss the intrepid travelers in action!

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