Access: During peak hours Monday through Saturday catch the #246 Lonsdale Quay via Highland bus at any of the stops along West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. Stay on the bus until the corner of Capilano Road and Woods Drive in North Vancouver. The driver will usually call out the best place to transfer to the #236 Grouse Mountain bus.
Fishermen tease spawning salmon to snap at a hook in the canyon just below the hatchery.
Next, get off at the corner of Capilano Road and Capilano Park Road and walk in to the hatchery. During non-peak hours take the #240 15th Street bus to the corner of Marine Drive and Capilano Road where you can catch the #246 Lonsdale Quay via Highland bus up Capilano Road. Transfer to the #236 as above. For an alternate route take SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver and board the #236 Grouse Mountain bus. No other transfers will be necessary to reach hatchery.
Much closer to home than the Adams River Sockeye run, but also less dramatic, the Capilano River in North Vancouver is home of important coho and chinook salmon runs. The former start heading up the river in July while the latter begin in September. By the middle of November both runs are concluded. Juveniles are released from January to May. Capilano Canyon is particularly gorgeous in autumn with fingers of sunlight poking through the thick forest canopy at a low angle. Well-maintained trails along the river's edge allow easy access to the salmon's natural habitat and to "fish ladders" which steer salmon into the Capilano Salmon Hatchery. Glass walls built into ladder of the federal government facility reveal the fascinating underwater world of the Pacific salmon as they queue up for a fate somewhat different from that which nature intended. Rather than dying a noble death after a cosmic struggle these fish receive a bonk on the head and the roe or milt is unceremoniously squeezed from their bellies after which their carcasses are tossed on some dung heap. Isn't science wonderful?
Just a few minutes downstream from the hatchery a more pleasing sight awaits. From a comfortable perch above the canyon walls you'll bear witness to competition in its purest form. Massive chinook vie for control of a tiny patch gravel in which to incubate their eggs. The winner, like the loser, will most surely die but, with a little luck, it's superior genetic material will mature and bolster the overall strength of the species.
While salmon don't generally eat once they enter the river, you may see anglers in the canyon below teasing the aggressive fish into snapping at an obnoxious lure. While catch and release saps the salmon's remaining strength, ripping it away from the nest it so steadfastly defends this is but one of the many perils the salmon faces as it attempts to close the circle of life.
Though virtually all of the forest on the North Shore is recovering second growth, check out the 500 year old giant fir that the loggers missed. At 61 metres tall, this is how much of the province once looked. Be sure to take the 20 minute stroll upstream to Cleveland Dam, construction of which necessitated the building of the province's first fish hatchery.
A network of relatively easy trails makes exploring in the vicinity of the hatchery worthwhile at any time. Following the river downstream you can meet up again with the bus network at Park Royal shopping center. Catch the #250 Vancouver bus or indeed any Vancouver-bound bus back downtown from the south side of Marine Drive.