Trout and Salmon Run at Bowmanville Creek Fish Ladder

By Piyushi Dhir

If you enjoy watching nature work its miracles, you will certainly be amazed to see a variety of fish head upstream at the Bowmanville Creek twice a year. Their journey is not a simple swim upstream but includes fording across man-made barriers like the Bowmanville Creek Dam.

How do they cross the concrete dam and why does this phenomenon attract crowds from across Durham?

Read on to know more.

What is the Trout and Salmon Run?

Every year in spring and fall, the smaller trout and the larger Chinook salmon head upstream along fresh flowing waters to spawn. Fighting the flow of the stream and navigating their way through hurdles, the fish display an enormous amount of strength and will power. Seeing them in action as they struggle onward is inspiring and fascinating, as much for adults as for children.

Bowmanville Creek Dam

While much of the fish’s journey takes place under water, there are some locations where they are more visible near the surface of the water. One such location in Durham where this miracle of nature can be viewed is at the Bowmanville Creek Dam.

Travelling east on Highway 2, soon after crossing King St and Bowmanville Avenue, there is a small turn on the right going into Roenigk Drive. As soon as you turn into Roenigk, there is road to the left curving downhill to the entrance to Bowmanville Valley. You will find yourself in a large parking lot with free parking space.

A ten minute walk from the parking along the Bowmanville creek brings one upon the Bowmanville Creek Dam, which makes for a great look-out point for viewers who come to see the migration.

Bowmanville Creek Fish Ladder

Alternate Entrances

There are multiple other entrances to the Bowmanville Valley Trail. One of our favourites is through Nelson Parkette on Nelson Street, because our son absolutely loves the playground there.

One can also park and enter from Baseline Road. Both these entrances are further away from the dam. So, if you are coming merely to see the fish, the parking space just off Highway 2 is your best bet. If you are coming with kids, opt for Nelson Street, but be prepared for a long walk to the fish ladder. Else, park on Baseline and enjoy the beautiful walk through the trail as you make your way to the dam.

Bowmanville Creek Fish Ladder

While the concrete dam presents an almost-unsurmountable barrier for the fish on their upward journey, volunteers and nature-lovers have worked hard to create the Bowmanville Creek Fish Ladder. This ladder is a bypass passageway that allows the trout and salmon to get past the dam.

It is essentially a side-passage at a relatively lower height, where the fish can jump up to continue their upstream path. As they jump and flutter to achieve their objective, the fish are clearly visible to viewers.

Bowmanville Trout Run

Kids’ Paradise

Our four-year old enjoys perching on the rocks and watching the fish attempt the jump again and again. They fall and get pushed back with the heavy downstream flow of water, yet they try and try until they succeed. We have had many interesting science-based conversations as our son drills us with questions about the fish.

After watching the fish, we continue walking along the winding paths of the Bowmanville Valley Trail. Since it is a paved trail and maintained from April to September, we have been able to take our child’s stroller and even his scooter, making it an easy trail to walk for families.

Best Time to Visit

The phenomenon of migrating fish takes place twice a year, in the spring and the fall. Early in the season, some fish are visible at the fish ladder, attempting to bypass the dam. However, later in the season, the variety and quantity of fish spiral upwards, making the sight even more spectacular. April and September are generally speaking the best months to watch the migration.

Bowmanville Valley Trail

March 29, 2021 Update:

We visited today and the trout and salmon run is already underway. However, the number of fish visible was nowhere near as many as we had seen at the end of September last year. The trip was nevertheless lovely and we did enjoy watching the fish hard at work. We plan to return in a few weeks and hope to see a larger pool of salmon and trout on their upstream migration.

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About the Author

Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.