Salmon and Cedar: A Westcoast Day at Goldstream Provincial Park

West Coast Fern Gully

The rain fell fast and furiously as Nathanael and I drove along the TransCanada Hwy 1 towards the Malahat. To our surprise, the small parking lots at Goldstream Provincial Park were busier than we'd expected, on account of the salmon run. It was the beginning of November, and despite the rain, an ideal time to watch the salmon run. Each fall, salmon make their way upstream from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. The earlier in the season, the better, because later on as the fish die, the river begins to stink. Spawning sites are often referred to as "The Cradle & The Grave" as a salmon's natural life cycle begins and ends in the same place.

In any case, while watching this natural phenomenon was the reason most people were huddled alongside the river in their rain jackets and gumboots, I was there primarily to scout locations for a prospective photography shoot. The salmon run was a bonus. 

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We made our way down the small gravel slope to Goldstream River. The banks were lined with adults and children dressed in raingear, quietly watching the river gushing. It was full of salmon, some quietly staying beneath the surface, laying eggs, guarding them, or just resting their tired and battered bodies from the journey upstream. Occasionally we'd hear a splash and see one of the salmon jump. Opportunistic seagulls bobbed happily along in the water, riding the current and oblivious to the inclement weather. We joined the crowd and watched the fish and birds for a bit - after all, this only happens once a year!

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I've been to Goldstream Provincial Park a number of times during summer when the riverbed was dry. Now, the river was full and flowing along at full speed. The sound of the rushing water was wildly peaceful, and we watched it move from a small bridge over Goldstream River. The only downside here was that we couldn't access some places, such as the waterfall, which we could have in summer. Instead, we admired the rushing water and lush foliage of the rainforest as we could only do at this time of year and I considered future photo possibilities in the park. I think this park makes a perfect case for re-visiting destinations in different seasons - the seasonal changes are enough to strike the balance between familiar and new. This is also advantageous for photographers - don't be shy about re-visiting and photographing places you've been before, near or far. There is almost always something new to see, or you can challenge yourself further to capture the location in a new style.


The farther we walked from the parking lot, the fewer people we encountered - a sure result of the weather and indication that most people were really just there to see the salmon. The few people we found gave me a funny look as I stood photographing trees in the pouring rain. Perhaps that's a good sign - they say that if you aren't getting funny looks, you aren't trying hard enough to get the shot. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that no one else will have the same (or as many!) photos from that soggy day at Goldstream Provincial Park.

Bench in a Grove

We continued on to the Nature House, with the idea that we could stop there from the rain for a few minutes. Of course, by the time we got there, the rain had mostly let up! What could we do but laugh? But, our walk in the rain was not without some reward because Mt Finlayson was wreathed in fog, creating a perfect westcoast scene.

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We walked out to the end of the path overlooking Finlayson Arm - it was so swampy looking that I half-expected to see a moose! Instead there were boats moored in the distance and more seagulls hanging out on logs in the less-distant distance. A few more pictures, and we turned around to follow the path back the way we had come. We'll be back , in another season, for more explorations and photography. 

Finlayson Fog

What is your favourite part of exploring the West Coast? Have you ever seen a salmon run?

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