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Ogden, Utah’s Kokanee Salmon Run

Ogden, Utah’s Kokanee Salmon Run

The color change before the color change.

Posted: 09/10/2019

The Los Angeles Times recently highlighted the Ogden, Utah area as one of the top-four “leaf-peeping” spots in the United States. The glowing press coverage, in addition to an abundant winter snowfall, a wetter-than-normal spring, and a cooler-than-normal summer, means the area will see visitors driving, hiking and biking the nearby canyons to take in the eruption of every color in the rainbow.

However, before the first leaves start to change color around mid-September, another color show gets underway and lures paddlers and hikers to Causey Reservoir. The healthy population of Kokanee salmon that inhabits the cool, deep waters of Causey throughout the year begins its annual spawning run up the tributaries that flow into the reservoir.

Kokanee are silvery in color until they are ready to spawn, at which time they become a brilliant red before moving up the left-hand and right-hand forks of the South Fork of the Ogden River which flows into Causey at the southeast portion of the reservoir. 

The left-hand fork is not accessible over land and requires interested viewers to use a SUP (stand-up paddleboard), kayak or canoe to get there. The right-hand fork can be accessed by land and requires about a 2.5-mile hike in from the Skullcrack Canyon parking area.

As the beauty and magic of Causey’s Kokanee spawn has increased in notoriety and popularity, it has increased in sensitivity. These land-locked salmon are working to get upstream and reproduce, and their success is imperative to future healthy populations. As a result, Utah law protects salmon populations during the fall. If you catch a Kokanee salmon anywhere in Utah — from Sept. 10 to Nov. 30, 2020 — you must release it.

We’ve heard reports of people who pick up the fish for photo opportunities or who let their dogs loose to chase the fish in the streams. Please don't do that. Be ethical and don't interrupt their journey. You'll still have plenty of great photo and video opportunities!

Please stay out of the stream beds and keep dogs on leash.

Human-powered watercraft rentals are available through the Weber State University Outdoor Recreation Program, at Gear:30, and Detours in Huntsville.

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