The spectacular phenomenon of salmon migration

The annual salmon migration and interaction with brown bears is a natural phenomenon that we all know from many documentaries on TV. In our humble opinion, it is a spectacle that you should see once in your life. With an EB5 tour in mind, we therefore made plans for a trip with the focus on observing this spectacle. That happened in 2022. The problem with planning this tour is the long journey to the specific locations where this phenomenon takes place during the fall. Moreover, these specific locations are quite remote. As a rule, they can only be reached by seaplanes or fast, expensive boats that sail from the mainland deep into a creek where the salmon spawn. If you add to this the monopoly of some local companies, then you know that the cost of  such a trip is high. That’s why we looked for an affordable alternative for this type of trip.

Based on our own network of contacts, we therefore chose Canada as the flight destination for this trip. With a rental car we did an entire tour along the West Coast as well as the Rocky Mountains. A short Eastern extension was also added for observation of American Bison and Pronghorn, the sole antelope member in North America. By doing this, we gave the trip more vairity in terms of sub-areas and target species on site. It provided breathtaking scenery and ditto wildlife encounters. It is a journey from another dimension that can be compared to a visit to the Pantanal in South America and Svalbard in the Far North.

What seemed important to us was the time to plan the trip in the right period. We there fore chose the start of the salmon migration. After all, the spawning grounds still look untouched, they are not yet littered with salmon carcasses and, not unimportantly, the bears still have to make an effort to outwit what is relatively easy to obtain food.

Salmon run facts

A salmon run is an annual fish (when they have reached sexual maturity)  migration event where many salmonid species swim back against the stream to the upper reaches of rivers to spawn on the gravel beds of small creeks. Usually they return with uncanny precision to the natal river where they were born, and even to the very spawning ground of their birth. After spawning, all salmon die and the salmon life cycle starts over again with the new generation of hatchlings. Being anadromous, the salmon offpsring spend their juvenile life in rivers or lakes, and then migrating out to sea where they spend adult lives and gain most of their body mass.

Grizzly Bears are classified as carnivores; however, they eat a wide variety of foods and are really omnivores. On the coast of British Columbia, Grizzly Bears forage mostly in estuaries, seepage sites and valley bottom wetlands where they feed on succulent plants available in spring  like sedges, grasses  and horsetail. Later, they switch to berries and then to spawning salmon in August and early September.

It’s a familiar scene to anyone who’s watched footage of brown bears catching salmon in North America and Canada: the apex predator standing in a rushing river and grabbing passing fish with their paws or jaw. During our observations we witnessed the way in which prey was usually killed when the bear grabs the rib cage over the back and delivered a bite to the back of the head, neck, face or nose. Young bears also pinned their prey to the ground and then immediately tear and eat it alive.


Apart from the bear spectacle, the West Coast of Canada has a lot of extras to offer, including American Black Bears, Orcas, Gray Whales, Humpback Whales and Sea Otters. The way in which you put together your trip can be based on these certainties. An itinerary is then more or less determined quite quickly. But these are well-trodden paths. After all, these species are unapproachable without a series of expensive boat trips which all agencies offer and can therefore also be booked as classic packages.

If you also want to add other species and areas that offer less certainties but are also worthwhile, there are many options. Canada is home to three cat species: Bobcat, Canadian Lynx and Cougar. And on Vancouver Island you have the Sea Wolves and the endemic endangered Vancouver Island Marmot. A short Eastern extension into the Alberta also offers a rich surplus of American species not found in the Rocky Mountains or British Columbia. American Bison, Pronghorn and Canadian Beaver are easy targets.

An itinerary also depends on available budgets. After all, it is never a cheap trip. There is the international flight, potential domestic flights, fuel for the many kilometers while on a fly and drive, ferries and many (boat) excursions. Accommodation is also an unavoidable expense. Also worth mentioning is the opportunity that camping offers. It is cheaper and you are not tied to hotels which are rather scarce in some areas. Camping is not difficult or an obstacle and a few days later you can enjoy the luxury of a hotel again.

So, combining some classic locations with less obvious ones seems original and fascinating to us. It does not make the journey fully predictable, more adventurous and open to surprises. Sporadic camping also offers many additional options and benefits. You will have to make choices anyway. And long beforehand. After all, areas are far apart, the summer months are extremely popular and nearby cities with millions of inhabitants are never far away. So, a once in a life time trip that you need to plan well in advance! But it is really worth the cost and planning. The scenery is spectacular and the animals superb!