There is something thrilling about actually seeing a wild Atlantic salmon, whether it be in a river, a fish ladder, or in an interpretive centre and learning more about the mystical creature that has entranced a considerable segment of humanity for centuries.
Currently, runs are at critically low levels in the southern part of the Atlantic salmon's North American range. In those regions it is still possible to see salmon in interpretive centres or in some gene-banking facilities. Further north it is possible to Atlantic salmon leaping waterfalls in some locations, and to watch them swimming upstream in fish ladders equipped with viewing chambers. Below is an overview of the best locations for viewing.
Wild Salmon Centre - New Brunswick
At St. Andrews, NB , the ASF operates an interpretive centre with an underwater viewing room allowing one to observe salmon underwater. There are also displays about Atlantic salmon, ASF research, issues impacting the species, and the rich cultural heritage.
Other centres for viewing and learning about Atlantic salmon:
Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery - Located in East Orland, ME, this major facility of the USFW holds populations of the endangered Atlantic salmon from various rivers in Maine. It has a large exhibition area, large sculptured Atlantic salmon, and offers opportunity to view the Atlantic salmon in tanks. Phone 207-469-2803 Read more
Wild Salmon Resource Centre - In Columbia Falls, ME, this centre has displays and at times raises young Atlantic salmon. Staff have great understanding of the Downeast rivers - the Dennys, East Machias, Machias, Pleasant, and Narraguagus Rivers, together with the issues impacting them. Phone 207-483-4336 Read more
Mactaquac Biodiversity Centre - In Kingsclear, NB, this DFO facility both holds gene-banked populations of wild Atlantic salmon from many rivers in New Brunswick, and operates a transfer operation of Atlantic salmon over the huge Mactaquac Dam. Offers Public Tours. Phone 506-363-3021
Fundy National Park - Adventurers join park biologists, and First Nations experts as they hike through Fundy National Park back-country to an Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon research site. All participants are trained and outfitted to take part in a snorkeling expedition to monitor local populations of endangered salmon. The Swim with Salmon for Science excursions only happen four times a year, every Tuesday in September, making it one of Parks Canada's most exclusive programs. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 506-887-6000.
Miramichi Salmon Museum - Located in Doaktown,, MSM is dedicated to the rich cultural heritage of Atlantic salmon of the Miramichi. Between 20% and 25% of all Atlantic salmon returning to North America are headed for the Miramichi watershed. The Museum usually has juvenile Atlantic salmon and many displays of memorabilia related to the people both famous and not so famous that have had a passion for the river and its Atlantic salmon. Phone 506-365-7787 Read more
St. Mary's River Interpretation Centre - is situated near the banks of the St. Mary's River, just north of Sherbrooke, NS. The St. Mary's was a favourite angling river for Babe Ruth. The Centre has displays related to the angling cultural heritage associated with the river and is also a centre for restoration projects related to this beautiful waterway. Phone 902-522-2241 Read more
Margaree Salmon Museum - This museum on the Northeast Margaree has an amazing collection of salmon angling memorabilia, and Frances Hart is a wonderful guide to the collections and more particularly the stories surrounding them. The Margaree, in 2011, reached 500% of its basic conservation needs for Atlantic salmon eggs, so it is a very healthy river. The steep valley sides make exploring the river beyond the museum a must. Phone 902-248-2623
Quebec - Gaspé
Centre d'observation du saumon atlantique - At Matane, QC, this facility provides a wonderful opportunity to view Atlantic salmon travelling up a fishway, with windows in the side of the fishway. Bilingual staff, know the area, and the Atlantic salmon very well. Phone 418-562-7006
Causapscal Falls - At Causapscal, QC. In the right season, usually the second and third weeks of June, this is perhaps the best place in North America to see large salmon leaping a waterfall. At other times there is a place at Causapscal to look down into a pool to watch the Atlantic salmon milling about.
Cascapedia Museum - An absolutely wonderful collection of angling memorabilia surrounding the river, and of the royal connection with the Cascapedia River. Bilingual. Phone 418-392-5079 Read more
Quebec - St. Lawrence North Shore
Centre du Saumon de l'Atlantique (Saguenay) - At la Baie, in the Saguenay region. This centre has underwater viewing of Atlantic salmon as well as displays. Phone 418-697-5093
Corporation du Bassin de la rivière Jacques-Cartier - At Cap Sant?©, it has viewing windows in the side of the fishway to watch Atlantic salmon. Phone (418) 285-2210
Big Falls on the Humber River - Located in Squires Provincial Park, this is usually the best single location in North America for watching Atlantic salmon leap a waterfall. Depending on water conditions at the Falls, it may be possible to stand within a few feet of leaping salmon as they head towards headwater streams of the Humber.
Grand Falls Salmonid Interpretive Centre - At Grand Falls-Windsor, NL, this incredible facility near the Trans-Canada Highway has had in excess of 40,000 Atlantic salmon ascending its fish ladder. Underwater viewing of the wild Atlantic salmon as well as displays. This is a must-see if you are driving across Newfoundland. Phone 709-489-7350 Read more
Fluvarium / Freshwater Resource Centre - Located in St. John's, this facility offers underwater viewing of wild Atlantic salmon, plus displays related to salmon and to other freshwater species. Phone 709-754- 3474 Read more
Gros Morne National Park - At times this National Park on the Northern Peninsula offers trips to the counting facility on Western Brook. Check with the National Park Interpretive staff well in advance, if interested.
Torrent River Salmon Interpretive Centre - In Hawke's Bay, NL, far up the Northern Peninsula, this includes underwater viewing in a fishway (see large photo at top of this page), and excellent displays on the river's heritage and Atlantic salmon. Phone 709-248-4066
Big East River - A couple of miles north of Hawke's Bay, the highway crosses a bridge noting the stream as being the Big East River. Pull off the highway just beyond, and spend a few minutes looking down from the bridge. You may see Atlantic salmon jumping here, and if it is bright sunlight, you may be able to take some excellent photos.
Underground Salmon Pool - Near the top of the Northern Peninsula, a few miles before Roddickton, NL, a sign points to the right on a gravel road, and eventually to a parking area, with signs showing trails. These will take you to Beaver Brook. The trail is not strenuous, but about 1.5 km. to the brook. Called a brook, but really more of a small river, it travels through an underground cavern - that is also the upstream route of Atlantic salmon travelling to spawning areas. If water conditions are appropriate, and there is mid-day light down into the tannin-brown water, Atlantic salmon can be seen lazing below or above the cavern.