kilometers north of
Vancouver, British Columbia, at the head of scenic Howe Sound
is the Squamish River System.
large glacier fed stream is home to late running winter steelhead
and four species of Pacific Salmon:
pinks. There are resident and sea running
cutthroat trout and a few
rainbow trout. The Squamish has four main tributaries: the Elaho,
the Ashlu, the Cheakamus and the Mamquam. Each has its own unique
eco-system. There are also many creeks feeding the Squamish River.
Each offers a rearing ground for young salmonids.
logging severely affected the spawning beds of salmonids in the
Squamish Valley. Mature trees act as reservoirs, holding back excess
water and releasing it slowly. Stripping the large trees from the
precipitous slopes of the Squamish Valley caused flash floods which
wiped out the limited spawning areas of the small tributaries. Shovelnose
Creek is a good example. It is an important spawning tributary for
the Squamish River. The lower portion of the creek had a good insect
population and it's a vital nursery for young salmonids. A number
of years ago a flood blasted a new path in the valley bottom and
destroyed the lower reaches of Shovelnose Creek. Fortunately, recent
stream re-habilitation has improved this disaster.
fishing and native gill nets in the river were also contributing
factors to the downturn in salmonid numbers. Angling hasn't been
to blame. Long before salmon and steelhead numbers crashed, sport
fisherman were voluntarily releasing their fish.
Despite the abuses of man the Squamish continues to offer fair fishing.
Work has been done on salmon enhancement in all small creeks of
the Squamish Valley. Building the Tenderfoot hatchery and spawning
channels on the Cheakamus River have enhanced it's diminished wild
stock. The dam on the upper Cheakamus River has kept that stream
with a more stable flow. Vital steelhead spawning areas have been
closed to fishing and all wild steelhead must be released. A bait
ban has protected dour steelhead who are beginning to prepare for
Guides on the Squamish River
steelhead in all the rivers of the Squamish Valley are very late
running. Very few steelhead are seen before the end of February
and the main run doesn't begin until April. This leaves a very short
steelhead season. In early May the snow pack run-off begins which
clouds the rivers with glacial silt. In a cool spring, steelhead
are sometimes still caught in mid May. The concentrated steelhead
season usually means a lot of fish come into the system frequently.
In a few prime locations, steelhead are taken every morning just
after daylight. It's not unusual for anglers to have multi-fish
days. The Squamish River has been a superb fly fishing river for
steelhead. The fish are aggressive and they often hold in the broad,
shallow riffles. There are several locations where fly casters often
do as well as the gear fishermen. Wilson's riffle near the mouth
of the Cheakamus and the Graveyard Run a little farther downstream
are good examples. This section of the Squamish has changed dramatically
in recent years due to flooding. But, these runs still produce fish
A short distance above the entrance of the Cheakamus, the Squamish
River changes from gravel and rock filled runs to a meandering sandy
bottom river without many of the classic holding pools. This section
of river is filled with sweepers and buried logs. This type of water
continues upstream for almost 20 kilometers from the Cheakamus River
Bridge. Fortunately, this is also one of the few portions with limited
access to the river. The land is mostly private and there is a large
Native Reserve in the valley.
kilometers above the Cheakamus River Bridge the paved road ends
and the Squamish River changes back to the fast gravelly runs that
all steelheaders admire. The logging road follows the Squamish upstream
for another 40 kilometers and is seldom out of sight of the river.
There are numerous access points for anglers, rafters, campers or
sightseers. It is a very scenic valley. Snow covered peaks rise
abruptly from the valley bottom and a few hanging valleys have year-round
glaciers. Blacktail deer and black bear frequent the valley bottom.
Mountain goats can often be seen climbing the precipitous cliffs.
And, although rare, grizzly bears are infrequent visitors. Even
moose are present in the upper valley.
The most popular fishing areas on the Squamish are just up and downstream
of the Cheakamus outlet, and what has come to be known as the 24
mile section (26 to 32 kilometers above Cheakamus bridge). This
portion of the scenic upper Squamish has several gravel bars where
anglers can camp along the river on weekends. The bridge over the
Squamish at 20 mile leads to the only organized camping spot (Buck
Mountain Campground) and the Ashlu River. Another six kilometers
of pretty water extends upstream from Turbid Creek canyon (40 kilometers
above Cheakamus Bridge) to just beyond the Elaho junction with the
Squamish. Steelheading isn't as productive in this section but more
Dolly Varden are caught there. Logging roads extend another 20 kilometers
up both the Elaho and Squamish River valleys.
to the upper Squamish is over industrial logging roads frequented
by huge trucks during mid week. Drivers beware! Access to the lower
Squamish and mouth of the Cheakamus River is off a rough little
road near the power station at Brackendale. Turn left on a gravel
road before the power station then right over the railway tracks.
Follow the muddy narrow road to the end. There is a tiny parking
spot and a rough trail down to the river. Instead of driving, many
anglers just fish their way down the Cheakamus to its mouth.
The Cheakamus is an excellent steelhead stream and frequently produces
better results than the Squamish. Besides steelhead the Cheakamus
supports a hatchery enhanced run of salmon and a few resident rainbow
trout. A public road follows the Cheakamus for nine kilometers then
changes to a rough B.C. Hydro road for another three kilometers.
Beyond that is very rough four wheel drive. There is a rustic campsite
suitable for three or four vehicles at the end of the road. Private
property extends along much of the Cheakamus but there is fair access
at a few locations. Except during high water, the Cheakamus can
be waded at the tailout of most pools. Anglers don chest waders
and criss cross the river while fishing upstream or down. The most
popular fishing section is downstream from the bridge.
water occurs in the Squamish System from May through August and
all tributaries except the Cheakamus remain silty until fall. Chinook
salmon enter the Squamish in late summer and coho follow them in
early fall. The best month for coho is October. Some of the Chinook
are huge and often exceed 20 kilograms. The coho are equally robust.
Squamish salmon take lures readily and can be caught on a variety
angling the Squamish Valley offers exciting raft, canoe and kayak
trips down the river. For people without their own gear there are
several local outfitters who offer guided tours. Sunwolf Tours at
the Cheakamus bridge crossing and Glacier Outback Adventures, 13
kilometers up the valley, both offer exciting day or multi-day packages.
The Squamish Valley is world famous for its population of bald eagles
and a wildlife reserve has been set aside for them. Besides the
resident eagles, hundreds of migratory eagles arrive in late fall
and early winter. It's not unusual to see a dozen eagles in one
tree. Every year there is an annual eagle count and bird watchers
from all over the country take part.
small sampling of what the valley has to offer can be had on a day
trip from Vancouver. But, a week can easily be spent without getting
bored. Just a hike up the back side of the Squamish Chief will occupy
a day. This 2000 foot "rock" is a world famous rock climb with many