Salmon at Port Alberni
We decided to break our journey from Victoria to the mid-island Pacific Coast at Port Alberni. This city, although nearer the island’s East coast, is a deep water port sitting on the Alberni Inlet estuary’ which stretches all the way to the Pacific. Local industries of logging, papermaking and fishing are giving way to more tourist-driven activities. We were encouraged to visit Stamp Falls Provincial Park where we found the salmon making their annual run up to their spawning grounds upstream. Over 40 million fish, mainly salmon, traverse this area every year. Recognizing the importance of the salmon fishing industry, both commercial and recreational, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has built a ‘fish ladder’ route to make the passage upstream easier, particularly when water levels are low. The fish ladder resembles a zig-zag hiking trail up the side of a mountain, making the grade easier for the upstream battle. We were fascinated, not only by the quantity of fish making their way up the ladder, but by the scene below the falls, reminding us of the San Diego Freeway in LA. Some salmon did not find the ‘easy way’ up but were attempting the leap up the steepest area of the falls (see movie below).
Nearby, we visited McLean Sawmill which operated commercially between 1926 to 1965. More recently, thanks to support from a local Paper-making Company, it has been put back into working order and is now the only steam driven mill in Canada, operating commercially two days a week providing cut boards for local use. The Mill was closed for the season when we visited so we gave ourselves a self-guided tour.
We heard local rumors of bears having been spotted fishing in the river off Victoria Quay in the middle of town so we decided to dine in our van there in hopes of seeing one. As the light was failing, Cheryl (always the eagle-eyed one) spotted a Black Bear wandering up the opposite river bank pausing occasionally for a dip and a bite in the river. Thanks to our highly developed ‘point and shoot’ system (Cheryl points, I shoot) we managed to get a couple of decent photos.
On our way from Port Alberni on the Pacific Rim Highway over the beautiful mountain pass to Ucluelet, we encountered an unusual phenomenon. Hundreds of padlocks and other items attached to a safety fence near one of the streams. These are apparently known as ‘Lovelocks’, left by couples expressing their undying devotion to each other by attaching an engraved padlock to bridge railings and throwing the key away. Apparently this practice began in Paris, lovers attaching locks to the Pont des Arts. However, when the magnitude of the practice reached the point where part of the bridge railing collapsed under the weight of 45 tons of locks, they were removed by the Paris Authorities. This barrier has a way to go before collapsing.
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Salmon moving upstream and attempting the waterfall jump
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Port Alberni, BC Canada