Salmon on the Rebound
See Salmon Spawning at Lagunitas Creek Near Samuel P. Taylor State Park
The return of salmon to Marin County creeks is one of nature’s most intriguing seasonal events, an inspiring sight to behold; but it takes patience, laser focus, and the help of fellow hikers also on the lookout for this special show, happening now! Just east of Samuel P. Taylor State Park is the rippling Lagunitas Creek and Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area, one of the premier spots for spying the salmon.
During the spawning season of October through April (with a peak in December and January) coho salmon return to Lagunitas Creek from the Pacific to complete their three-year lifecycle. Female salmon splash their tails to build a nest, or redd, in the creek bed. They may appear to be flopping sideways and fluttering about in the water over rocks. After they lay their eggs, males rush in to fertilize them. The females stick around for a few weeks to guard their nests, but both the females and males die after spawning.
So where can you currently see them?
Take a short stroll along the wide and tranquil trail. The shallow waters upstream from the fish viewing area is one of your best bets to see these determined fish. They can be hard to spot as their color turns gray or olive.
Our team has been going for years, without luck spying any salmon ... until last weekend, where several salmon sightings occurred at this location. Tip: talk to other hikers to help each other sight the salmon. Just be sure to stay a respectful distance and use a camera zoom ... the salmon prefer privacy from hiker-paparazzi.
Another option for potential sightings is at Devil's Gulch Trail in Samuel P. Taylor State Park Bonus: Here you can carry onward for a peak-bagging adventure to the park's beautiful Barnabe Peak.
Parking at Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area is very tough to come by due to the popularity of this trail right now. Arrive early or late day, or be prepared to wait in a car line at the lot ... it usually isn't too long before a car leaves. The car pull-out area for Devil's Gulch at Samuel P. Taylor State Park also fills up fast and there's no place to wait in line on the road, so you'll need a very early start or a parking four-leaf clover. The main trail at the Leo T. Cronin fish viewing area is dog-friendly (keep them on a leash). No dogs on the hiking trails at Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
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