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From Jasper to Vancouver – Leaping Salmon and Waterfalls | Roadtrip Canada (46)

We are in Canada extremely spoiled with both beautiful cities and intense nature. The hip city Calgary and the immensely popular mountains and lakes in Banff- and Jasper National Park were really bucket list worthy. Also the overwhelmingly beautiful glaciers in Glacier National Park and the much less crowded (but very beautiful) Yoho National Park left a big impression on us. But what else is there to see in Canada? Leaping salmon and more waterfalls of course! We drove from Jasper National Park to Vancouver in a few days and made a few stops to spot some beautiful waterfalls and jumping salmon. You can read all about it in this article.


Plan your vacation to Canada here


Our journey through the United States and Canada

This article is part of a major one-year journey that we (Chris and Malou van Wereldreizigers.nl), are currently making by the United States en Canada† We started in New York City and are through Washington DC en Baltimore (where we shipped our RV), first traveled south (Florida) and then made a full round of the country. At the end of July we crossed the border to Canada via Montana.

Organizing this trip took a lot of time and energy. So we had to US B1/B2 visa of one year and we spent weeks working on it renovating our 4×4 camper† Then we got to work on the RV to America to ship and in hindsight it turned out to be a Dutch vehicle insurance in America to be one of the biggest challenges.

When that was all over, we could finally focus on the anticipation: figuring out and planning all the beautiful places we want to visit. I built the ultimate roadtrip route through America and Canada of roughly 50.000 kilometers in Google maps and we are now making our dream come true! The interactive map can be viewed below.

More blogs from our trip through America and Canada

America

Canada

Spotting jumping salmon in Canada

First some background information about salmon, the (usually smoked) fish that we love to eat in The Netherlands. Salmon spawn in fresh water, usually in rivers and streams. However, many salmon spend their adult life in the ocean, returning to the region where they were born to spawn and pass on life to the next generation. Salmon live mainly in the cooler areas such as Norway, Canada and Alaska.

From the ocean, the salmon migrate up to 800 kilometers upstream. A bizarre upward journey that can take salmon for months, eat nothing and lose up to 70% of its body weight. At the end of the upward journey, the salmon spawns completely exhausted and dies there immediately. A bizarre story actually.

Salmon is easy to spot during the Canadian salmon migration in the clear rivers
Salmon is easy to spot during the Canadian salmon migration in the clear rivers

Best locations for the Canadian salmon migration

Back to Canada. There are countless locations in Canada where you can admire the salmon migration. The province of British Columbia is particularly suitable for this. British Columbia is crossed by countless small and larger rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean. The most famous locations are: Port Renfrew, Ucluelet, Qualicum Beach, Rearguard Falls, Campbell River and the Sunshine Coast.

We (Malou and I) went to watch the jumping salmon at two locations, namely at the Rearguard Falls and in Campbell River (on Vancouver Island). At Campbell River we went looking for bears, but here we also regularly saw salmon.

Jumping salmon during the Canadian salmon migration | Rearguard Falls
Jumping salmon during the Canadian salmon migration | Rearguard Falls

Best season for jumping salmon

The best season to admire the jumping salmon in British Columbia is from September through November, with a big peak in October. We were there in early September, so we didn't see huge amounts of salmon going upstream. Still, with a little patience, we regularly saw a salmon fighting against the river and sometimes even against waterfalls. So if you are in Canada in September, it is certainly worth a try. If you're there in October, you MUST go see the spectacle! Then tens or hundreds of salmon actually jump up every minute.

Leaping Salmon at Rearguard Falls

We drove from Jasper without really having a plan to Vancouver, and saw all kinds of signs along the way with 'salmon spotting' on them. We really had no idea because we hadn't looked into this before. When we stopped at the visitors center in Valemount (location here ), we were soon told that jumping salmon can be spotted here and that the season had already started!

The visitor center staff told us that the Rearguard Falls (location here ) is a perfect spot to see it, so we went straight there. We saw salmon fighting the waterfall one after the other. Capturing them well with the camera is actually more difficult than you think.

Jumping salmon during the Canadian salmon migration | Rearguard Falls
Jumping salmon during the Canadian salmon migration | Rearguard Falls

It can also be said that the salmon really have to fight against the waterfall. What a brave animal. Usually the attempts were unsuccessful and the salmon hit a rock or ended up in the wrong current, so that you could see it rinse back completely. Now she can start all over again. Pretty sad actually, haha.

Clearwater – a frequent stopover

A bit further we passed the Clearwater pictures (location here ). Clearwater is a popular stopover for those traveling between Vancouver and Jasper or vice versa. This is mainly due to the clear river (clearwater…), the beautiful lake and the geology of the region.

The area is located on an old, extinct volcano. The porous lava rock in the region is clearly visible in the different layers when you see the rock walls (photo below). This rock makes it easy for rivers to wear down deep gorges, resulting in beautiful waterfalls.

The different layers of stone from ancient volcanic eruptions are clearly visible
The different layers of stone from ancient volcanic eruptions are clearly visible

Some of these waterfalls are relatively close to each other. You can see them all in one drive of about an hour if you want. If you want to walk in the area, you can also set aside a whole day for it. There are also a number of campsites in the Clearwater area, but we decided to camp in the wild near an old bridge (location here ), on the Clearwater River. More fun and cheaper! We found this location on iOverlander.

The falls at Clearwater

From clearwater a small, winding road leads north into the hilly area. You can't see it on the google maps screenshot because it's a very small road that only shows up if you zoom in a lot. That's why I just drew a line between the different waterfalls (the blue location pins).

You can easily view all but the leftmost (Sylvia and Goodwin Falls) waterfall from this road, as the latter is on the other side of the river.

The falls near Clearwater in British Columbia
The falls near Clearwater in British Columbia

Triple Decker Falls

Triple Decker Falls (location here ) is the first waterfall you will encounter from Clearwater. It is not a very big waterfall and we heard that due to the relative drought, the waterfall was barely visible at the moment. So we skipped it, but when there is rain or melt water, the triple waterfall must be very beautiful.

Spahats Falls

Spahats Falls (location here ) is the first stop we made this morning. It is a large waterfall that thunders down tens of meters. You park your car in the parking lot and you only have to walk for 5 minutes to see the waterfall. As you can see in the picture, the sun did not shine on the waterfall yet. Unfortunately we were there in the morning, so we had to make do with this!

Spahats Falls near Clearwater, Canada
Spahats Falls near Clearwater, Canada

Tip:: The waterfall must be the most beautiful at the end of the afternoon, because the sun shines on it. This also applies to the other waterfalls in this list. So if you have the opportunity to go at the end of the afternoon, it is recommended.

Mol Falls

Om Moul Falls (location here ) will take you about 30 minutes through the Mol Canyon have to walk to get close. It is one of the bigger waterfalls in the list and must be really worth seeing. However, we skipped it because we still had a lot of muscle pain from the hikes the days before.

Helmcken Falls

As far as we are concerned, Helmcken Falls (location here ) the most beautiful waterfall! This waterfall is also easy to reach. You can walk there in 5 minutes from the parking lot. There are also many places to have a picnic and since this is more or less the end of the road, it is a nice place to have lunch with a nice view.

Helmcken Falls near Clearwater, Canada
Helmcken Falls near Clearwater, Canada

Green Mountain View Tower

No waterfall, but a fun activity on the route. There is a large wooden watchtower placed on the hill that gives you a beautiful view over the woods. If you have the time to stop here on the way back, it is a nice addition to all the waterfalls. The exact location of the watchtower is here to find.

Conclusion

Many people traveling through Western Canada drive from Vancouver in one long drive to Jasper National Park or vice versa. Sometimes, often on tours of three weeks or longer, the town of Clearwater and the nearby waterfalls are added to the trip by the travel agency as an extra stopover.

After all the extreme natural violence of the national parks that we saw before, this stopover is of course a lot less overwhelming. Still, it was a nice break from the trip, so if you have the time to spend a day or two at Clearwater, you can see some beautiful waterfalls there.

Jumping salmon during the Canadian salmon migration | Rearguard Falls
Jumping salmon during the Canadian salmon migration | Rearguard Falls

What's a lot more unique, but completely dependent on your travel period, is that during the drive from Jasper to Vancouver there are many places where you can admire jumping salmon. With a bit of luck, you will also see bears trying to catch the salmon. Unfortunately we were not that lucky, but it does happen regularly. So worth a try!

Plan your vacation to Canada here

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Chris

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➡️ 2022 - 1 year United States & Canada

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