salmon spawning

Orford River

Aerial view of Orford River Watershed
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Maximum estimated returns from 1933 to 2018 (retrieved from Department of Fisheries and Oceans, British Columbia) of Chinook and Coho salmon species for Orford River.

Maximum estimated returns from 1933 to 2018 (retrieved from Department of Fisheries and Oceans, British Columbia) of Chum and Pink salmon species for Orford River.

The Orford River system is one of three major watersheds emptying into the upper reaches of Bute Inlet in the northernmost part of the Sunshine Coast Forest District. The Orford River had peak historical escapements of 3,500 Coho, 7,500 Chinook, 100,000 Pink, 137,000 Chum and 750 Steelhead. In addition there were Dolly Varden, Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout. Initial logging occurred in the watershed from 1973-90.

A fish habitat assessment procedure was conducted on the main stem and major tributaries in 1988 on behalf of forest products companies. A spawning channel was created in 1989-90 and it was during the enumeration of the spawners that the presence of both a summer and a fall run of Chum were identified. A Watershed Restoration Program proposal (1994) noted that the system required Grizzly Bear oriented riparian improvements; in 1999, fish presence, channel and riparian assessments were conducted. The Homalco First Nation (Wxemalhkwu Indian Band), according to the Statement of Intent listed with the BC Treaty Commission (1994), includes this Bute Inlet watershed as part of their traditional territory; they have a major reserve in the lower section of the river and operate the Taggares-Homalco Hatchery.

In 2002 the summer run of Steelhead was identified as a special concern. Another (2004) report noted an extreme conservation concern for the summer run and the presence of possible small winter run. Channel instability, bank erosion and sediment transport were challenges facing these runs.

The most recent readily available maximum escapements are 50 Chinook, 3,700 Pink and 600 Coho (1989-98), and 27,000 Chum (1995-2000). The Orford is still considered a major system for both Chum (summer run only) and Pink production.

Homalco Wildlife Tours began Grizzly Bear viewing programs in the lower section of the river in 2011.

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