Celebrating Salmon in Issaquah, Washington

Credit City of Issaquah

by Adam Sawyer

Issaquah – have you been? If you don’t live in Washington, it can be hard to know for sure. That particular set of vowels and consonants are sequenced in ways that produce roughly 10 different towns that all sound faintly similar.

But if you’ve ever made it to Issaquah, you’d remember it. The idyllic spot is nestled between three distinct mountains that produce a constantly striking, nearly 360-degree Western Cascades view from any corner of the adorable downtown. Much like Leavenworth sans lederhosen.

All year long the town showcases that natural beauty while simultaneously pulsing with local culture, activity and all of the things that make the Pacific Northwest distinct, from their non-profit Cougar Mountain Zoo, outstanding Farmers Market, and the generationally beloved one-of-a-kind shopping experience offered at the Gilman Village, to a fantasy land of restaurants and independent stores with something for everyone.

Then there’s the performing arts scene. Check out the world-renowned Village Theatre, among a handful of others if you’d like some convincing. And while we are speaking of things distinctly Pacific Northwest… if you happen to be visiting in fall, it’s all about Salmon Days.

Like clockwork, every year Chinook, coho and sockeye salmon by the thousands swim back upriver to spawn in the cool, home waters of Issaquah Creek. You can thank nature for that. You can also thank The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, the most visited hatchery in the state of Washington for good reason. With a number of interactive displays and exhibits, viewing windows and fish ladders, a Native Plant Garden that shows off the seasonality of the region and guided tours, the hatchery is worth a visit any time you can make it there. But obviously, fall is their time to shine.

There are several locations on the hatchery grounds to take in the influx of fish, as well as some choice spots around town. Although official tours are on hold during the weekend of Salmon Days, docents from Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery are stationed throughout the hatchery to answer questions.

As for the festival itself, the whole town turns out to welcome visitors and celebrate the salmon’s return. Annual events include a host of family-friendly fun—a welcome parade, a kid-friendly obstacle course, a DockDogs competition, an aquatic-themed sidewalk chalk contest and a Beer & Wine Garden for adults. A number of food and arts and crafts vendors will be on hand, in addition to a lineup of live music acts that grace the Community Center Stage of the event from noon to 6:00 p.m., all weekend long. And while the thought of consuming the delectable fish during an event centered around their spawning may seem a little, shall we say, uncouth to some buzzkills, the local Kiwanis Club will be on the scene to host an alder-grilled salmon BBQ.

In 2023, the event will be held between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., October 7 and 8. Learn more at issaquahchamber.com/salmondays. Plan your visit to Issaquah at visitissaquahwa.com.