The Weaver Creek Salmon Run




Follow us on Facebook!

The life cycle of the Pacific sockeye salmon is a fascinating one. Although salmon are a salt water fish, they start life in fresh water. Every year in October thousands of salmon migrate back to the river of their origin to lay eggs. The eggs are fertilized by the males and stay buried in a gravel nest until they hatch in the spring.  The eggs turn into alevin, a small fish with a yolk sac under its belly to provide nutrition.  They remain buried in the gravel as they grow. When the yolk sac is used up, they emerge from the gravel as fry.

Sockeye differ in their life cycle at this point as the fry swim to a fresh water lake where they stay for a year growing into smolts. These smolts then migrate back to the ocean where they mature into adults. Near the end of their four year cycle they instinctively return to the creek they were hatched as spawners. Both male and female fish return. The female digs a nest about twenty centimetres deep and lays her eggs. The male deposits his milt to fertilize the eggs. After both are spent, they die, the salmon life cycle complete.

Other species of salmon follow a similar pattern but return to the sea as fry, not as smolts.

Salmon fishing is a major industry in British Columbia and, not surprisingly, people have made efforts to conserve and enhance the salmon stock. Weaver Creek, about 45 minutes from Abbotsford and two hours from Vancouver was the site of the first efforts at salmon enhancement in 1885.

In 1965, after several years of a declining salmon run (from an average of 20,000 sockeye salmon to just 12,000), a spawning channel was built about thirteen kilometres from Harrison Mills.  Every year from October 8th to November 1st, the sockeye return to Weaver Creek to spawn. The facility is open to the public daily from October 6th to November 5th from 8 AM to 4 PM.

The spawning channel meanders in a a serpentine fashion and covers a distance of almost four kilometres.

The tour is self-guided and works its way from the end of the channel to the beginning. There are many large signs along the way explaining the process. I am reversing the order here and starting at the beginning of the channel.

A weir blocks access to upstream Weaver Creek on the right and the salmon are directed into the spawning channel.

At the head end is  weir to keep the salmon from heading upstream and diverting them to the spawning channel (on the left in the picture above).

The first part of their journey is a fishway, a series of four cascades which the fish have to navigate to get to the spawning channel.

Four cascades form the fishway.

These are the highest jumps the salmon must breach to head upstream. From there the fish move into a holding area. The picture at the beginning of this article shows a salmon leaping from the lower to the higher level of the holding pond.

Before they can get into the spawning channel itself, they are sorted and counted. Fisheries staff allow 30,000 sockeye, 2000 pink and 2000 chum salmon to enter the channel at a ratio of three females to every two males each fall. Surplus fish are directed back to Weaver Creek to spawn naturally.

The sorting and counting station

Once past the gateway, the salmon enter the spawning channel itself, a winding stream almost four kilometres long. The channel is specially designed with a gravel bed where spawning occurs. The female fish digs tail down into the gravel create a hole about twenty centimetres deep. She lays her eggs and a male comes along and sprays his milt over the eggs. Then they are covered up and the fish continue along the channel.

Some activity in the water, possibly a female digging a nest.

A female salmon may build several nests before her supply of eggs are used up. Shortly after the salmon, both male and female, are spent, they die. In the wild, the carcasses wash downstream but in the channel, they are collected daily and buried elsewhere on site.

The fish go through a sort of dance or ritual in this whole process. You will see them milling about, sometimes one female chasing another away from a chosen nesting place. A male and female will pair up as a female will not deposit her eggs unless a male is nearby. The male are the larger of the salmon though they look quite similar.

Several salmon in the stream. You can see the salmon up close here as the stream is relatively shallow and the fish come quite close to shore.

The most fun to watch, of course, is salmon leaping over the waterfalls along the way.  The earlier cascades in the stream are higher and take more effort to navigate. The ones in the actual channel are aluminum and are designed to aerate and oxygenate the water. Oxygen-enriched water helps the salmon.  These aluminum barriers have a notch or hole in the middle and the salmon swim up through these notches though occasionally one will just jump over the barrier.

This salmon has just swum through the notch in the aluminum barrier.

Below is a video I shot that shows first the fishway, second the holding area before the counting station, third fish milling about the stream, and lastly, fish swimming through the notch in an aluminum barrier.

The Weaver Creek Spawning Channel is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM until November 5th. It is an almost park-like setting with walking paths and trees lining the banks. There is ample parking across the street from the hatchery. My wife and I enjoyed our visit a lot and highly recommend it.

There were two busloads of Asian tourists visiting while we were there, as well as couples with kids in tow. This is an excellent educational experience for school age children.

The peak of the salmon run is from October 15 to 25 so now is an opportune time to visit.

I should note that downstream is the Sandpiper Golf Course which has an excellent restaurant called the Clubhouse. We dropped by for dinner after our visit to Weaver Creek. If you’re a golfer you could make a day of it, doing some golfing a well as visiting the fishery.  And Harrison Hot Springs is not far away as well.

And I should also note that, while the Weaver Creek spawners are collected and buried after they die, the many other salmon traveling up other creeks and rivers float back down the river naturally after they pass away. These fish are a favorite food source for bald eagles and the Sandpiper Golf Course is also the site of the annual Bald Eagle Festival.  There you’ll see the “world’s largest concentrated gathering of bald eagles” in November.  I’m told November 5th is the best date for eagle watching.

Since the salmon enhancement centre is open until November 5th, you might want to combine both if you visit in early November. There were no eagles to be seen when we went on Oct. 10th – too early in the season. And there may be fewer fish still making the run by November, so it’s a trade-off.  We will be going back for the eagle festival.

Below are some links of interest followed by some more photos.

A fishy commotion
A salmon scales the fishway
A salmon makes its way through a weir
The Weaver Creek Salmon Spawning Channel entrance
Map showing the creek system and the spawning channel. Water flow is maintained at a constant level in the channel to combat either flooding or drought as the case may be.
Layout of the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel




Follow us on Facebook!

Great Scot! It’s the Great Gatsby!




Follow us on Facebook!

Rowena’s Inn on the River is a delightful trip back in time. It’s an old homestead built by a pioneer logger in the area for his family.

Charles Nelson Pretty was a businessman and entrepreneur. In the 1920s he had an opportunity to buy a 160 acre parcel of land in Harrison Mills. That land became, among other things, a dairy farm, a silvertip fox farm and a logging operation. At one time, Pretty’s operation was the largest privately owned logging company in all of British Columbia.

DCIM100SPORT
The Pretty Estate overlooks the Harrison River #HarrisonMills

When the home was built, there was no road. The Pretty family took the train to Harrison Mills and paddled by canoe to their estate. Later he had a yacht built and sailed up the river, mooring in front of his home.

While Charles and his wife Rowena spent much of their time in Vancouver, they also spent time in Harrison Mills. Betty-Anne, the youngest of their four children was actually born at the home.

rowenasinn-s
The Pretty family home at Harrison Mills

There was no electricity, so Pretty built a dam and produced his own electricity. The home still runs off the power from this generator.

In 1968, two of the children died tragically within six months of each other. Charles Pretty passed away in 1992 at the ripe old age of 102. The two surviving siblings, Ivan and Betty-Anne decided to convert the old manor into a Bed and Breakfast in 1995. They named the inn Rowena’s after their mother and late sister. There are five bedrooms available.

Four cozy cabins were added and the gatehouse which has two bedrooms is also available.

Two of the four cabins available for rent
Two of the four cabins available for rent #Luxurycottage

Ivan thought the location was ideal for a gold course and the 18 hole Sandpiper Golf Course soon became a reality. A restaurant was built adjacent to the old homestead. It was called the River’s Edge Restaurant but was renamed as the Clubhouse Restaurant to tie it in with the golf course. (I like the old name better!)

After Ivan passed away, Betty-Anne bought out his share and became sole owner of the property. Though Betty-Anne sold the estate in 2016, she and her husband Doug still live in the house, though Doug is currently in a convalescent home.

One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint!
One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint! #RowenasInn

The house is filled with antique furniture and old photos of the family’s history. As a home from the 1920s,  it seemed an ideal place to hold an annual themed party costume party. And so the annual Great Gatsby Party came about.

Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014
Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014 #RowenasInn

We attended the party in 2014, dressed up in costume, and stayed overnight with our friends Chris and Sheila. The Pretty family and their staff do it up in grand style. They bring in several old period cars and park them on the lawn of the estate. They bring in a few large tents in case it rains (which it occasionally does) and they brought in a swing band, the Jen Hodge All Stars, to provide some atmospheric music. They rocked the place. Band leader Hodge is the bass player in the video below.

There were also professional dancers to get people into the swing of things.

Professional dancers got people's toes tapping.
Professional dancers got people’s toes tapping. #RowenasInn

It did rain for a while during the day and the party was moved under the tents and indoors. Tea and refreshments were served, including 1920s era drinks like mint juleps.

Janis and Sheila enjoy a cup of tea while chatting with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty.
Janis, Sheila  and Chris chat with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty. #HistoricalInn

Of course, one of the main attractions is the attendees. Some go all out to create the 1920s look. Flapper dresses, vests, suspenders and pocket watches. My wife sewed her own dress for the occasion.

Three gals in flapper dresses
Three gals in flapper dresses #RowenasInn

We thought that the party might just attract older folks like ourselves but we were surprised by how many young people got into the spirit of the occasion.

Outside under a tent, the Baz Luhman version of The Great Gatsby was playing on a screen, but not many people were watching. It was backdrop.

The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound
The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound #RowenasInn

The Gatsby Party skipped a year in 2016 but is back for 2017. A limited number of rooms and cabins are also available if you want to stay overnight.

Below is a short promotional video the estate produced for the Great Gatsby Party. My wife and I just happen to have a cameo appearance.

And while the Gatsby Party is a fun reason to visit Rowena’s, there are other reasons and seasons to visit. The inn is at the base of the road that leads to the Hemlock Ski Resort. The same road leads to the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel where you can watch salmon spawn. It’s open for visits from Oct. 6 to Nov. 1 every year.

And the Harrison River attracts one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in North America every year in November. November 18-19 this year kicks off the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. Pretty Estates is a great place for eagle watching.

And this year the estate is having a special Valentine’s dinner in both the Clubhouse Restaurant and in the dining room at the inn. My wife and I have booked a two day stay and are looking forward to it.

Rowena’s is a thoroughly charming trip back in time with many activities to choose from. It’s only 21.9 kilometres from Harrison Hot Springs and 108 kilometres from Vancouver, about an hour and a half drive.

Below are two photo galleries and some links of interest. If you’re on the front page of this blog, just scroll on down, otherwise click on the links. I will be taking more photos and adding them after Valentine’s Day.

 

Follow us on Facebook!

Photo Gallery: Great Gatsby Party




Follow us on Facebook!

Here are some more photos from the Great Gatsby Party at Rowena’s Inn on the River in 2014. The party is being held again on June 11, 2017.

The Great Gatsby Party at Rowena's
The Great Gatsby Party at Rowena’s
Live music from the Jen Hodge All Stars
Live music from the Jen Hodge All Stars
Tents were set up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain
Tents were set up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain
Professional dancers added to the mood.
Professional dancers added to the mood.
A number of people mingled at poolside
A number of people mingled at poolside
My wife sewed her own outfit and created the fascinator she's wearing
My wife sewed her own outfit and created the fascinator she’s wearing
Janis and Sheila have tea
Janis and Sheila have tea
Betty-Anne's husband Doug chats with Chris and Sheila. Doug is now 90 and in a convalescent home
Betty-Anne’s husband Doug chats with Chris and Sheila. Doug is now 90 and in a convalescent home
One of the classic cars brought in for the party
One of the classic cars brought in for the party
This classic Rolls was also on display
This classic Rolls was also on display
The guy on the right won best male costume
The guy on the right won best male costume
Betty-Anne presents the prize for best female costume
Betty-Anne presents the prize for best female costume
Janis and I near the restaurant
Janis and I near the restaurant

Follow us on Facebook!

Photo Gallery: Rowena’s Inn on the River




Follow us on Facebook!

Here are some additional photos of the inn and surrounding area. I will be adding some more after Valentine’s Day when I will be taking some interior shots. The view at the top of the page is of the Harrison River as seen from beside the swimming pool.

The inn in the winter - it's prettier in the summer with the sunshine and the shrubs in bloom
The inn in the winter – it’s prettier in the summer with the sunshine and the shrubs in bloom
There'as a little brook near by
There’as a little brook near by
One of the four cabins
One of the four cabins

More photos to follow after Feb. 14th.

 

Follow us on Facebook!