As water lovers celebrated Rivers' Day by strolling the banks of Mamquam River side channels, the pungent smell of decaying fish indicated this year's healthy pink salmon run did their spawning duty.
The odd dying fish still wallowed in the shallow waters as Squamish Streamkeepers toured about a dozen residents interested in learning more about the Mamquam Reunion project on Sept. 27. The channels, which were created in 2005 around Loggers Lane, are often overlooked despite providing important habitat for spawning pink, chum and coho salmon.
According to Squamish Streamkeeper co-ordinator Jonn Matsen, this year's pink salmon run turned out to be much more successful than initially expected. Reintroduced to the Mamquam River in the mid-1980s after a fierce decline, the pink salmon have spread throughout the local water network over the years. The group counted 6,100 in the Ashlu River side channels and 1,100 in the Mashiter Creek side channel alone, he said.
"For a little channel like that to get 1,100 fish in there is unheard off. They just packed themselves in like, okay, everyone let's spawn together now," said Matsen with a chuckle.
"It's been unbelievable for pinks and we're just hoping this carries on into coho and chum."
Fellow Squamish Streamkeeper co-ordinator Jack Cooley led people along the side channels, rhyming off interesting facts and pointing out various wild life as they passed. A blue heron landed in the distance. An American dipper, a small aquatic bird, showed off its stuttering dance as it searched for food in a stream.
There's a lot more going on around the channels than meets the eye.
"It's all about appreciation and educating the public about what's happening here," said Cooley.
Whether it was the tranquil sound of the water or the light breeze beneath a sunny sky, the excitement caught on. Local resident Karen Pugh said she didn't realize the area held so much life.
"I didn't know there was so much in here. I thought it was just the rivers that we were concerned with, not the streams. There should be more told about these areas because I'm sure I'm not the only one," she said.
Meanwhile, Derek Kilburn brought his newborn baby and two-year-old son Wyatt along for the interpretive walk to ensure early exposure to Squamish's water system.
"I want to give him an idea that there are groups of people interested in preserving the rivers. I don't know how much he'll take from it but for him to see the salmon in the river, to give him that experience, is healthy," said Kilburn.
Squamish Streamkeepers went on to join more than 600 people at a rally in Vancouver hosted by the Wild Salmon Circle on Saturday (Oct. 3) in support of protecting wild salmon from fish farms.