Engaging Communities to Protect Salmon and Orcas

Cedar River Salmon Journey

Every fall, rivers and streams throughout Washington state welcome back five different Pacific salmon species—Chinook, coho, chum, pink and sockeye—that call these waters home. These heroic fish have been on a long journey that took them from the rivers where they were born to the open ocean and back again to create the next generation and continue the cycle.

For the last 22 years, community volunteers with the Cedar River Salmon Journey have lined the riverbanks of the Cedar River to cheer these incredible fish on through the last leg of their journey. These volunteer naturalists provide free, family-friendly riverside presentations to the public to educate watershed residents about salmon and watershed health.

Cedar River Salmon Journey tent

“I am almost 84 years old and I have never seen anything so exciting as the spawning salmon that I just saw for the first time! It was better than The March of the Penguins!” said one local resident upon seeing the magnificent spawning fish return to the river.

Since 1998, this popular program has drawn over 178,791 visitors to see salmon and to learn about ways they can help support and promote salmon recovery in the watershed.


As with every group of salmon that calls one particular river home, the salmon that return to the Cedar River are adapted to the unique habitat of that river and are biologically different from any other salmon that return to other rivers. There are 486 of these distinct populations in Washington state!1 When these salmon spawn and die, they do far more than simply produce another generation. These fish also help to bring important nutrients back to their local watersheds and are a food source for many of our region’s other iconic animals—particularly the critically endangered southern resident orcas.


Unfortunately, as our state experiences increasing development, critical salmon habitats such as those along the Cedar River are declining. In the Puget Sound alone, 75% of all river delta wetlands have been lost or degraded.2 These impacts are felt by not only the salmon populations, but the southern resident orcas who patiently wait to feast on them. Without healthy habitats and healthy salmon populations, the orcas will continue to go hungry.

Luckily, the Washington State Legislature is currently in session and has an opportunity to take further steps to protect and restore salmon habitats and the benefits they bring to the orcas. Please let your state legislators know that salmon and orca recovery are important to you and that our environmental laws need to reflect the need for better habitat protection.

You can email your legislator or call the toll-free legislative hotline at (800) 562-6000 to leave a quick message for all of your legislators at once. Ask them to take steps in the Legislature now to advance orca recovery and ensure that development does not further damage salmon habitat.


Join the Seattle Aquarium’s policy email list to receive timely action alerts and breaking news.

You can also join the Aquarium’s field programs as a volunteer naturalist. For more information, visit SeattleAquarium.org/salmon-journey or SeattleAquarium.org/beach-naturalist-program.

WDFW. Salmon and steelhead species in Washington. https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/score/score/species/species.jsp

Puget Sound Partnership. Vital Signs – Estuaries. https://vitalsigns.pugetsoundinfo.wa.gov/VitalSign/Detail/13

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