Each year during late summer to mid-fall, salmon make their way upstream from Ontario’s Great Lakes. They wind their way up narrow rivers to lay their eggs in shallow, freshwater prior to the onset of winter. Watching the salmon run in Toronto has become a yearly-tradition for outdoor-lovers. And those looking to experience one of the greatest struggles of nature firsthand.
Getting out to local rivers to experience the Ontario salmon run is a wonderful excuse to get out and experience the fall colours of Ontario. Whether you’re an angler, or just someone looking for something new, experiencing the salmon migration near Toronto is just a super fun and fascinating way to spend the day. It’s an experience that draws visitors from across the province and beyond.
The annual salmon migration in Ontario is a magical time of year in the Great Lakes. Fascinated people visit their local waters to catch a glimpse of the salmon’s upstream journey. Whether you’re into fishing or not, the fall salmon migration, also known as the “salmon run”, attracts people from all across the Greater Toronto Area.
Watching these powerful fish struggle up the fast-flowing streams on the final swim of their lives is a testament to the power of instinct in nature. The sheer willpower of these fish to swim up shallow waters, leap up waterfalls, and push against the current for hundreds of kilometres is nothing short of awe-insipiring.
When Is The Fall Salmon Run In Toronto?
The Ontario salmon run typically starts in early September and runs through until early November. Mid-to-late October tends to be when the season hits its peak. Thanksgiving weekend is often a popular time, but the migration is really based on weather and water temperatures.
The Ontario salmon run occurs while water temperatures are in the range of 3°C to 18°C. During this time the salmon run sees Chinook, Atlantic, Pink, and Coho salmon pushing their way through the waters near Toronto
These fish can reach sizes of up to 15-lbs, so watching them leap and twist along the fast-flowing rivers is something you need to see at least once.
Where to see the Salmon Run in the GTA
If you’re looking to experience the salmon run in Toronto, you don’t have to look too far. In fact, the salmon make their way right up the heart of the city on their way to their hatching ponds.
Humber River – Etobicoke
The Humber River is one of the best places to see the salmon swim in Toronto. Salmon make their way from the mouth of the river at Lake Ontario. Along their way up the river they jump over man-made barriers that have been introduced since 2006 when a re-stocking plan was put in place to help save the Salmon in Ontario.
One of the best spots on the Humber River to see the salmon is at the Old Mill Dam near Etiene Brule Park in Bloor West Village where the fish make a one and a half metre jump to continue their upstream journey.
Credit River – Mississauga
If you’re based in Mississauga, the Credit River is one of the most incredible spots to see the salmon run in Toronto. The Credit River often sees some of the earliest salmon migrations, with some sightings occurring in mid-August. The Culham Trail through the University of Toronto Mississauga campus is a particularly popular spot.
One of the cool things about watching Salmon on the Credit River is that you can actually track the number of salmon using the RiverWatcher app from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. This app shows the number of fish making the swim from day to day. This app also covers the Ganaraska River in Port Hope and many other rivers throughout the world.
Highland Creek – Scarborough
If you’re looking for some exciting salmon action in the GTA, the Highland Creek Salmon Festival at Morningside Park in Scarborough might be for you. Highland Creek is one of the oldest known breeding grounds for Atlantic Salmon in Ontario before their habitat was destroyed. But in recent years conservation efforts have seen an explosion of Chinook Salmon in Highland Creek.
Now, Morningside Park has become home ot the annual Salmon Festival. At this family-friendly event, visitors gather to celebrate and cheer the salmon as they made dramatic jumps on their way upriver.
Etobicoke Creek – Etobicoke
The mouth of the Etobicoke Creek near Marie Curtis Park East Beach is a popular spot to see the salmon swim up through the city. The salmon make their way up the creek through Etobicoke and up to Brampton and Heart Lake Conservation Area (which is a great spot for treetop trekking in Brampton).
Don River – Toronto and North York
Believe it or not, the Don River is one of the greatest spots for seeing the salmon run in Toronto. Start out at the Evergreen Brickworks, (which is also one of the best places for seeing the fall colours in Toronto), and make your way through the hiking trails along the Don River.
Make your way along the Bayview Multi-use lane towards Pottery Road Bridge. This is one of the best spots to see the salmon jumping in the Don River.
Other Great Places To See The Salmon Swim In Toronto
Although the sites listed above are among my favourite spots to see the Salmon in the GTA, they are by no means the only places. Here is a list of some of the other great places to see the salmon run in Toronto.
- Duffins Creek in Pickering. Follow the Seaton Trail to Whitevale Dam. You can also check out the Greenwood Conservation Area trail in Ajax.
- Bowmanville Park Fish Ladder in Bowmanville. The wheelchair-accessible trail through the Bowmanville Park Trail to a fish ladder where salmon make multiple jumps up the ladder.
- Glen Rouge Campground in Scarborough. This Toronto Conservation Area often has a massive number of salmon pushing through the Rouge River on their way northward.
Do you have favourite places to see the run in Ontario? Head over to the Ultimate Ontario travel community on Facebook and join our conversation. Or sign up for the Ultimate Ontario newsletter to stay informed about the best things to do in Ontario.