A celebration of the importance of sockeye Salmon to the Secwepemc people
The Adams River sockeye (sqleltenuw̓i)
Secwepemc (pronounced se-hwep-muhc)
People of the Shuswap Lakes and Adams Lake (Cstelen – hiss-tal-in)
Every fall, the typically calm waters of the Adams River turn red as sockeye salmon ‘run’ upstream, back to their birthplaces to spawn.
The Adams River, specifically Tsútswecw Provincial Park (formerly, Roderick Haig-Brown) features one of the largest runs in North America. On a dominant year (like 2018), millions of fish can be observed as they make the long journey home.
The Salmon Run
Salmon spend their early lives in freshwater rivers and lakes. They then swim to the sea where they spend most of their adult lives. Once matured, they swim with impressive precision back to the river in which they were born. Once they have reached these rivers, and sometimes exact grounds, they spawn (lay eggs).
A salmon run is the time of year when these sockeye make a rigorous migration from the pacific ocean to the upper reaches of BC’s rivers. After they spawn, the salmon typically die and the life cycle restarts with a new generation.
Every four years there is what’s called a ‘dominant’ run where the rivers see millions of fish return. 2018 and 2022 are dominant years, which are the best cases to see this impressive natural display.
The Adams River Salmon Society, predicts 7 to 14 million salmon will return to B.C. river systems from the ocean this year.
The Location - Tsútswecw Provincial Park (Roderick Haig-Brown)
Tsútswecw Park is a great place to visit at any time of year, but particularly in early October during the sockeye salmon run. It is known to be one of the best places to see large numbers of fish. Viewing platforms, guided tours and an interpretive centre ensure that visitors are welcomed and informed.
Tsútswecw Park is located in the Thompson Okanagan’s Shuswap region. The Shuswap region is known for beautiful lakes, waterways and lush forest - a mecca for recreational activities and tourists.
Park Hours: 9AM – 4PM
Find more specific details on the park (including maps and access) here.
The salmon run is a phenomenon that happens all over BC’s interior in the fall. While Tsútswecw Provincial Park is famous for its volume, there are other places to observe the salmon like Kelowna’s Mission Creek.
The Salute to the Sockeye Festival
Coinciding with dominant years, the Adams River Salmon Society hosts Salute to the Sockeye, a festival celebrating the salmon that have made the 500 km journey from the pacific ocean.
This year’s festival takes place at Tsútswecw Park from September 28th to October 21st.
For further event schedule and details, visit the Adams River Salmon Society.
Entrance fees are collected during the festival by the Adams River Salmon Society and cover the costs of added services during this peak time.
$5.00 per private vehicle
$2.00 per person for a commercial van (10 to 20 passenger capacity)
$60.00 per bus (21 to 40 passenger capacity)
$75.00 per bus (41+ passenger capacity)
Salute Pass – available to The Adams River Salmon Society members only (visit the Reception/Membership desk in the souvenir tent for more information)
The Cultural Significance
Secwepemc (pronounced se-hwep-muhc) people have lived in South-Central B.C. for thousands of years. The Adams River sockeye (sqleltenuw̓i) have played a longstanding and important role in their lives.
This relationship between the Secwepemc people and salmon has been based on the core value of k̓wseltktnews - the idea that we are all related. This relationship ensured that the salmon were preserved and respected by emphasizing an interconnection between all living things.
Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park has recently been renamed to Tsútswecw Park. The Secwepemc word “Tsútswecw” (pronounced choo-chwek) translates to ‘many rivers’. A naming ceremony will be held as part of the Salute to the Sockeye Festival opening ceremonies on September 30, 2018.
To learn more about the Secwepemc relationship to the salmon and the modern pressures that these sockeye are facing, visit the Adams River Salmon Society.
To experience the Secwepemc culture, including a traditional winter home, canoe experiences, berry picking, visit Quaaout Lodge near Chase - just a short drive from Tsútswecw Park.
What to Know Before You Go
Please note that this is a popular event that draws a crowd. Please be cognizant of posted signs to ensure that the environmental impact on this natural space is minimized.
If you do bring your dog, ensure that they are on a leash and do not go into the water, this can be very disruptive for the salmon.
Plan your accommodation ahead of time. There is no camping available in Tsútswecw Park, but the towns of Chase and Sorrento are located just a short drive away.
How to get there
The park straddles the Adams River, between Adams Lake and Shuswap Lake. Access is off the Trans Canada Hwy (Hwy #1), 45 minutes east of Kamloops. Turn onto the Squilax-Anglemont Hwy and follow signs to the park.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meghan Reading is a Canadian travel photographer. She grew up in the rocky mountains of Alberta but now calls British Columbia home. While she looks forward to continuing to explore the world with her camera, her favourite destination will always be her own backyard.