Salmon Viewing Map
Click here for the Salmon Viewing Map
California, and the San Francisco Bay area in particular, is a cornerstone in the world of Pacific salmon. Four runs (unique populations distinguished by the time and place of spawning) of Chinook salmon spawn in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River watershed -- more than any single watershed in the world. The Central Valley also hosts a unique run of steelhead. Coho salmon and yet another run of steelhead spawn in coastal watersheds just outside of the Golden Gate.
Population numbers for each of these unique runs is less than 10% (sometimes less than 1%) of historic counts. The long-term declines can be traced to numerous human impacts to the fish's fresh water habitat, including both passable and impassable dams, massive water diversions, and riparian habitat destruction. Pacific salmon fed generations of Californians; but now, all of the local runs except for the fall and late-fall runs of Chinook salmon are officially listed as threatened or endangered. [The fall and late-fall run barely support a highly regulated and once-proud and commercial salmon fishery].
Despite these declines, Bay Area residents and visitors can still enjoy views of wild salmon spawning -- one of nature's greatest spectacles -- in numerous local waterways. The Bay Institute and its collaborators have developed a salmon viewing map that you can use to get specific directions to local salmon viewing spots. Use this map to take a trip with your whole family, friends, and neighbors to see salmon consummate their amazing life-cycle in a bay Area watershed near you -- seeing Pacific salmon spawn in the wild is an event you will never forget!
Click on the fish viewing symbols to bring up a Google Map for the salmon viewing location. Viewing locations on Battle Creek, the Feather, American and Mokelumne Rivers are near hatcheries. These hatcheries were built because nearby dams eliminated critical salmon habitat. Ask a hatchery employee where the best viewing areas are to help you locate salmon spawning in the river.
Many of the rivers have local non-profit groups dedicated to the conservation of the creek or river and improving salmon habitat. Check with these organizations to learn more about local salmon populations.
There is no guarantee that you will see salmon or steelhead when you visit these viewing sites, especially given their depleted populations. All these sites have salmon or steelhead at some point during most, if not all years, and are great locations to visit. Other creeks and rivers in the Bay Area and Central Valley have salmon or steelhead, but the runs are intermittent or do not have good publicly accessible viewing areas.