Adams River Salmon Run – Thompson-Nicola, British Columbia - Atlas Obscura

Adams River Salmon Run

Thompson-Nicola, British Columbia

Every four years, millions of salmon fill a river so densely that its waters appear deep crimson. 


When millions of bright red sockeye salmon return to the Kamloops, British Columbia area, one of the world’s most beautiful migrations takes place in a shallow Canadian riverbed. 

Every year, like clockwork, the salmon return to their spawning grounds during the first three weeks of October. After spending years in the open ocean near Alaska fattening up for the arduous 2,000 mile journey back to their homes, the salmon spend 17 days traversing rapids and swift waters rushing through canyons before arriving from whence they came: the Adams River.

But, every fourth year, their return (referred to as a “dominant run”) is so plentiful, the water itself seems pink. These salmon, numbering in the millions after an unexplained population rebound, return in schools so thick that the waters of the Adams resemble an undulating, deep crimson ribbon as they make their way upstream. 

When 34 million salmon show up, it’s safe to say they’re probably on to something. Even though experts are unsure how these salmon find their way home after being gone so long, the fact is that the ensuing migratory show is as spectacular as they come. Plan accordingly and you too can witness the river running pink with aquatic life.

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