As students return to their classrooms this fall, the Pacific Salmon return to our region’s rivers and streams—embarking on an arduous journey to spawn and complete their lifestyle. And you can catch a glimpse of these majestic water warriors and their extraordinary voyage home at locations all around the Seattle area. Click through the gallery for a roundup of the best places to take your small fries to view the spectacular salmon, plus special events that celebrate their fall homecoming.

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Issaquah

Welcome the autumn season by making the trek to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, the most visited hatchery in the state. Start your visit by taking your crew for a free self-guided tour of the facility, where interactive displays tell the story of the salmon’s journey back to Issaquah Creek. Walk across the hatchery bridge and see chinook and coho swim up-stream, then watch them work their way up the fish ladder. Gaze through viewing windows and notice the physical changes salmon have undergone during spawning, as most males and some females developed hooked snouts, strong teeth, color changes and are showing new markings on their skin. Most of the fish return beginning in mid-September through October.

Bonus: Make it a day trip and pop in to the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival on Oct. 7-8, 2017 where there will be tons of fishy activities, carnival rides, food and a parade.

When: Outdoor exhibits are open every day during daylight hours, while indoor displays can be seen from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Be sure to pick up a tour brochure in the hatchery building before setting out on your venture. Drop-in guided tours are held on Saturdays and Sundays, September through mid-November at  11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for a recommended $2 per person donation or schedule a private tour.

Parking: Limited parking can be found in the lot off Sunset Way or along the fence behind the fish ponds. Otherwise, look for parking in the garage next to the Issaquah library or along Front Street or Newport Way. Carpooling is recommended.

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery
125 W. Sunset Way
Issaquah, Wa 98027

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Salmon Watching Tips:
1. Spawning marks the end of the line for the Pacific salmon and there’s a chance you and your brood might come across fish carcasses while visiting the rivers. Be sure to keep curious kiddos from disturbing their bodies, as they serve a valuable purpose for our environment.

2. Everyone knows that kids attract mud, water and dirt, so plan ahead and bring extra clothes. Make sure the minis also wear boots or shoes that can be easily cleaned.

3. Get up close and personal! Bring binoculars if you have them.

Have you taken your crew salmon spotting before? Where is your favorite place? Tell us in the comments below!

— Abbey McGee & Rachael Brandon