NEWHALEM- Beautiful fall weather, a long weekend and a record-breaking run of chum salmon make this a good time for a drive to the Upper Skagit River.
State wildlife experts predict a return of more than 300,000 chum in the Skagit this season, the biggest run since record keeping began in 1913. Many of the best viewing areas are in the 20-25 miles of river below Seattle City Light's hydroelectric dams. The run will be peaking this weekend and next.
Recommended viewing sites include:
- Howard Miller Steelhead Park, on State Route 530 near the junction with State Route 20 in Rockport. Salmon can be viewed along the gravel bank adjacent to the park and from the bridge across the Skagit just upstream from the park.
- Sutter Creek rest area, milepost 100 on SR 20. Viewing along the gravel beds next to the rest stop.
- Marblemount Bridge, at the junction of SR 20 and Rockport Cascade Road. Parking is available at a U.S. Forest Service boat launch area south of the bridge. (Viewers should be careful; there is no sidewalk on the bridge.)
- Cascade River Bridge. Cross the Skagit River Bridge at Marblemount, drive about a mile on Cascade River road and turn right on Rockport Cascade Road. The bridge is just beyond the intersection. (No sidewalk on bridge.)
- Mouth of Bacon Creek, between Marblemount and Newhalem on SR 20. An important spawning area for chum and other species.
- Footbridge over the Skagit in the town of Newhalem, just beyond the general store.
- Footbridge over the Skagit at Gorge Powerhouse, Newhalem. Chum salmon congregate in deep pools below the powerhouse before moving downstream to spawn.
Seattle City Light operates its three Skagit River dams to protect fish and generate power. River flows are regulated throughout the year to protect spawning runs and eggs. The dams also generate more than 25 percent of Seattle's total energy needs.
"We had a record run of pink salmon last fall, and now an amazing run of chum," said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. "It shows that we can have the power we need while protecting the river. I encourage Seattleites to get up to the Skagit and see firsthand how our environmental stewardship is paying off."