Cooper River Bridge
The historic salmon runs of the Cle Elum River – and the Tribes who depend on them – were decimated by dam construction in the early 1900s. The annual returns of five species of salmon (spring/summer/fall Chinook, sockeye, and coho) dropped from nearly one million to approximately 8,000, with three runs becoming extirpated by the 1990s. Nearly 100 years later, in 2009, the Yakama Nation reintroduced sockeye to the Cle Elum watershed.
The Cooper River Bridge, located off Highway 903 near Cle Elum, provides a good place to see returning sockeye salmon in the fall. Head north on Highway 903 out of Cle Elum – the road will eventually turn into Salmon La Sac Road. Take a left at the NF-46 road toward Cooper Lake. There is parking on either side of the road, and if necessary, on the other side of the bridge. You can look on either side of the bridge to see the sockeye spawning. Please be respectful of these fish as you watch and do not throw rocks or enter the water. They are already stressed as is and need to use all their energy safeguarding the next generation of salmon.
returning sockeye salmon in the fall.