For glimpses of the big Chinook salmon right inside the city’s industrial heart, check out the hatchery-seeded run at Ship Creek between late May into June. Hatchery-seeded coho salmon begin running through the same waters in late July through August. The best viewing can be found in the clear water at the spillway and fish ladders at the Ship Creek Overlook Park off East Whitney Road, in the railroad and warehouse basin north of downtown.
Take the walkway over the dam and peer down into the water to spy salmon waiting to push further up the stream. The easiest place on the bridge to see salmon is on the downriver side at the northern end of the dam. Wear polarized sunglasses if you have them to help cut glare from the water surface and increase your ability to see fish.
A stroll upstream along the Ship Creek Trail bike path will take you to several bank overlooks, with access to many walking paths leading to streamside gravel bars. During the height of the Chinook run, big blushing salmon will be working upstream and holding in pools.
The tidal inundation of Ship Creek downstream from the dam area tends to silt up the water and make it too opaque for good viewing. But the fishery draws hundreds of locals and tourists during June and in August, and can be entertaining for spectators. At the height of the runs, plenty of fish will be landed.
The most intense action occurs in the hours before and after high tide. Walk west from the dam along the Ship Creek Trail—which runs all the way to the estuary. Or venture out on the mid-channel footbridge just downstream from the Bridge Seafood restaurant and the overhead highway viaduct. (Near the corner of N. C Street and W. Ship Creek Avenue.)