Seton Creek Spawning Channels

Seton Creek Spawning Channels

Seton Creek Spawning Channels are a great place to see the pink and coho salmon run in Canada (if you are lucky enough to get your timing right!) We visited in mid-October, but it was just a little bit too late to see the salmon jumping around in the river. However we saw hundreds of salmon carcasses, and the views were beeeeautiful so it was still a fun place to visit.

There are two trails around the channels, the cottonwood trail (1km), or the bunchgrass trail (1.8km). Both options are great for seeing the wildlife. Or, if you’d like to learn more about the local area and culture, you can join one of the Sek’wel’was experience tours.

Seton Creek Spawning Channels – the basics

Distance: 1km (for the cottonwood trail)
Elevation gain
: minimal
Time: 20-30 mins
What to bring: Bring your camera in case there is wildlife!
Facilities: Sek’wel’was experience tours run from the nursery
How hard is it? Easy. It’s a quick walk with great views.
Extra notes: Best time to see the pink salmon is the first 3 weeks of October in odd years.

Sek’wel’was – Cayoose Creek

These salmon spawning channels are located in the territory of the St’át’imc people. The St’át’imc Nation is made up of 11 self-governing communities, including Sek’wel’was (Cayoose Creek). Sek’wel’was is located here in Lillooet at the heart of their nation, so it is often a meeting place for neighboring nations.

There is a nursery for native plants at the end of the spawning channels. When we visited, a group of children was there learning about the area. We didn’t want to disturb them all, so we just walked along the channels. However the signs said there are Sek’wel’was experience tours if you contact them in advance.

There were several beautiful benches if you bring a picnic when you visit.

Breakfast in Lillooet

We bought giant croissants from Abundance Artisan Bakery in Lillooet, then brought them with us to eat at the Seton Creek Spawning Channels. I don’t really recommend doing that in autumn after the salmon run, as the smell is not the most pleasant!

Wait, why was it stinky?

We visited in October, after the main salmon run had finished. It looked like we were a few weeks late as there were loooads of dead salmon decomposing in the channels. Salmon return to the place they were spawned. That is why so many come back here. The bears and birds had already eaten their fill so we saw fish skeletons dotted around as well as fishes at various stages of decomposition.

Seton Creek Spawning Channel views

The channels are arranged in curvy lines, so as you walk around them, you’ll be turned around to see the mountains in all directions. We may have missed the salmon run, but the autumnal colours were gorgeous in mid-October.

Why build Spawning Channels?

The far side of the trail looks down on the channels, so you can see how they are arranged in lines. These channels were constructed in 1967 to allow the Pink and Coho salmon to spawn in the Seton River, after a new dam was constructed in Seton Lake. These calm channels have space for approximately 46,000 salmon to spawn(!)

This is the view looking southwest to the cliffs at the edge of Lillooet (the path goes the whole way around the spawning channels in that direction.)

Cottonwood trail

We explored the short Cottonwood trail which loops back around to along a pretty boardwalk. This area is heaven for wildlife sightings! We saw an osprey and there were cool bat-houses along the trail. It must be even better if you arrive at the same time as the salmon.

Seton River

At the far end of the trail you will be able to see the Seton River. The mountain views are fabulous from here.

If you are visiting Lillooet, it is definitely worth stopping to take a peek at the beautiful Seton Creek Spawning Channels. The trails are short, easy and lovely (even if they are a bit stinky due to dead salmon.)

25 thoughts on “Seton Creek Spawning Channels

  1. Would be great to go in mid October-November to enjoy the beautiful colors of the nature! fantastic landscapes and excellent guide!

  2. Love those autumn colors! I was in BC last October too and just missed the spawning salmon by a few days… I guess that means I’ll have to go back!

    1. Heh, we always seem to just miss it too!

      We saw a few salmon at other locations during this trip… but we have never made it during one of the really busy fishy moments.

  3. I think going in the fall is worth it for those pretty colors even though you didn’t see the salmon running. It’s incredible how many can spawn in one spot. I had no idea that they only run on odd years, so fascinating!

  4. Oh god can’t even imagine how bad the smell was 🤢 But the views are incredible, definitely worth it! I’d love to grab something from the bakery and have a picnic on those beaut benches in the summer!

  5. This looks so cool! The views and autumn colors are beautiful even if you didn’t get to see the salmon jumping around, but I’d love to try to time a visit to see the salmon. Are there issues with bears around here in season?

  6. What a cool experience! I have yet to take my kids somewhere to see the spawning fish (and we have salmon spawning literally 15 minutes from our house!). The scenery is awesome! Can’t wait till we do our BC road trip to explore all of these incredible spots!

  7. Good to know about the smell — that’s crazy that so many salmon spawn there!!

    it’d be cool to see the salmon run, but those colors in mid-October look unbeatable! *-* This is what I think of when I think of fall — it’s so picturesque! <3

    1. It’s funny, we were fascinated by them! It was pretty cool to see what they look like as salmon skeletons! Still, I like seeing them splash about even more.

      I totally understand that is not everyone’s cup of tea!

  8. That looks like such a beautiful area to see the fall colors, it is too bad about being late to see the salmon. I didn’t know there were man made areas for the fish to spawn, that is so neat.

    1. There are lots of them in BC. It’s mostly when power infrastructure ruined the rivers or dammed waterways where fish used to spawn…so there are salmon ladders and artificial spawning channels to try to help.

  9. The colors of the trees make the scenery even more beautiful. Also so interesting about the salmon and how they come back to this place, though unfortunate you went at the time when there were a bunch of dead ones lying there.

  10. The fall colors at Seton Creek are stunning! It is too bad you missed the salmon run but there will always be next year! It’s kind of crazy that there are enough decomposing salmon to actually make the creek smelly. I think there are salmon ladders in Seattle and neighboring Issaquah, but those are in much more urban environments. It would be cool to see the salmon run with this gorgeous natural scenery in the background!

    1. Have you ever made it to see the salmon run in Washington Kevin?

      We caught a better salmon run the following week… there are sooo many types of salmon that there are plenty of times we can see them here. 🙂

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