Find the Essential Experiences

Wildlife Viewing

Animals of the North Thompson Valley

Deep in the wilderness of the world’s only inland temperate rainforest, all kinds of animals roam. As a result, opportunities for wildlife viewing abound. These creatures have called the wilderness of the North Thompson home for thousands of years, almost since the land itself was formed.

This is your front row seat to wildlife viewing in Canada’s untamed natural wonders.

Keep your eyes peeled along the drive, as the trees and meadows along the Yellowhead Highway are areas rich with bears, moose, deer, elk, caribou, mountain goats, and more. When hiking, look for hoofprints, pawprints, and other signs of animals travelling over the pristine wilderness terrain.

Discover some of North America’s best birding sites, where over 250 species of birds make their home among unique ecosystems and breath-taking landscapes.

Explore hundreds of lakes and rivers, and cast a line in some of the world’s best fishing grounds. Watch as salmon spring forth, so as to follow the ancestral journey from ocean to river to spawning grounds.

You can catch a glimpse of these furry, feathery, and scaled local residents any time of the year, though spring and autumn are the prime seasons for wildlife viewing. Meanwhile, winter is a good time to hone your tracking skills, especially after a light snowfall.

Wildlife Safety

Review wildlife viewing safety practices when planning your trip. Wells Gray and Mt Robson Provincial Parks were established to protect wildlife and to ensure they continue to thrive. By following some basic guidelines, both animals and people can continue to share these beautiful spaces for generations.

Visit WildSafeBC.com for wildlife safety resources and best practices for encounters with common species in British Columbia.

Birds

The North Thompson is a birder’s paradise. Winged fauna are drawn to the diverse landscapes around Valemount, Mount Robson, Cranberry Marsh, and Wells Gray, particularly to the lush wetlands, forests, valleys, and mountains.

Valemount and Mount Robson have been recognized by experts as one of the best places for mountain birding in North America because of the diversity of species from both sides of the Rocky Mountains. This area is the gateway of the Rocky Mountains, therefore forming an important migratory corridor for eastern and western birds, for both valley-bottom and mountain-top dwelling species.

Mountain wetlands like Cranberry Marsh are rare ecosystems so the region has many uncommon waterfowl. Valemount particularly has many unique species of warblers, ptarmigans, flycatchers, and crossbills.

The forested mountains and alpine meadows of Wells Gray are home to more than 250 species of birds. Some live here year round and some are simply passing through on a longer journey. This diversity occurs because the park contains elements of both wet Cedar-Hemlock and drier Douglas Fir zones, creating an edge-of-range effect that makes birdwatching particularly interesting.

May through June, during the height of breeding season, is a fantastic time to see a multitude of species. The birds become quiet at the beginning of July, especially once chicks are born. Shrills, chirps, and whistles can be heard again once the birds become active in early August, while they prepare for a long migration.

Eagles and ospreys ride air currents through the skies while waterfowl glide over calm waters. Listen for the sound of a woodpecker and watch for the flit of hummingbirds. In the morning, tune in to the birdsongs filling the forests.

Don’t forget your binoculars and camera!

Fish

In every season, fish are abundant in the waters of the North Thompson Valley. It all starts at the mountaintops, where ancient glaciers begin to drip as the air warms in spring, turning streams into surging waters that raise the rivers all the way to the Pacfiic Ocean. 

There are hundreds of lakes in the area, as well as rivers, streams, ponds, and marshlands. For visitors, these bodies of water mean opportunities for wildlife viewing, salmon watching, fishing, First Nations cultural ceremonies, and hatchery tours.

Fishing

Fishing is a popular sport throughout the North Thompson, with hundreds of lakes, rivers, and wetlands. The expansive fishing area has drawn in many Fishing Resort operators and accommodators, who will provide transportation and fishing expertise, making for the ultimate fishing trip.

Salmon Viewing

In September and October, the Sockeye Salmon find their way up the rivers, to several spawning points located in the North Thompson Valley, such as Bailey’s Chute, one of 40 waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park.

This spectacular phenomenon marks the return of the salmon by a 4,000-kilometre journey from the Pacific Ocean. Watch as these persistent fish leap over seemingly insurmountable obstacles like raging rapids and towering waterfalls.

A “dominant” run occurs every fourth year, with millions of fish returning to their spawning grounds from the ocean.

Where to watch salmon jump:

First Nations

Simpcw First Nation is a leader in selective fish harvesting methods, now managing and operating the Dunn Creek Hatchery where salmon are raised to support local waterways. Established in 1983, the hatchery now produces 20,000 Coho salmon each year. The program focuses on the conservation, protection, and management of fish populations within the Simpcwúl’ecw area. Projects include habitat restoration, stewardship of watersheds, and summer youth programs.

The Raft River First Fish Ceremony is hosted annually around August by Simpcw at the Raft River Viewing Platform in Clearwater. Guests are invited to participate in several activities that highlight Simpcw’s culture and history, including pit cooking, sockeye salmon viewing, storytelling and a traditional game called Lehal.

Hatchery Tours

The Clearwater Trout Hatchery releases over 3 million fish each year into approximately 330 lakes around British Columbia. There are several strains of rainbow trout, brook trout, and kokanee. In fact, this is the only Freshwater Fisheries Society BC hatchery that stocks Kokanee salmon in the province.

Visitors are welcome to view the hatchery year-round for a free self-guided tour. Hatchery staff are available to answer questions and will provide free fishing rod and tackle rentals. You can even cast a line in the designated ponds at the hatchery.

Bears

The North Thompson is one of the richest habitats for black bears in all of British Columbia, particularly around Blue River. Given the robust population of both black bears and grizzly bears, chances for this type of wildlife viewing are high.

In the warmer months, at the heart of bear country, you’ll find bears along roads, lakes, and trails. Bear sightings are most common, especially in May and June, when bears emerge from winter hibernation in search of food. Keep an eye on the shores of lakes and rivers, and sooner or later you’re likely to see a mother bear and her cubs cooling off in the heat.

Black bears eat a plant-focused diet, with plenty of greens, berries, and mushrooms, along with the occasional fish. Each year, the bears enjoy a great feast after the salmon journey up the rivers to their spawning grounds.

Small Animals

As you hike through fields of alpine blossoms, listen for the sound of scurrying feet and small chirps. Small furry creatures are a common type of wildlife viewing in the North Thompson.

On rocky terrain, look for pike and marmot. Squirrels and chipmunks scamper up and down tree trunks, searching for nuts and vegetation.

Beavers and muskrats live in marshlands like Cranberry Marsh, ponds, and slow moving sections of rivers. Once in the water, beavers are fast and agile, able to stay underwater for up to 15 minutes. Damming naturally stabilizes watersheds, filters sediment, and enhances the local environment for other animals, in effect helping to maintain wetland habitats.

Hoofed Animals

A small population of elk migrates through the valley and have been seen around Mount Robson Provincial Park, Cranberry Marsh, and McBride. Elk roam through high, open mountain pastures in summer and lower forested slopes in winter.

Majestic moose forage along the shorelines and through marshland. Mountain goats expertly climb, leap, and navigate rock slides and cliff-faces. Caribou and mule deer reside in high basins and tablelands, cautiously peeking through the trees.