Chinook Salmon

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

Back to Animals on Oceanscape

Chinook salmon is the official fish of Oregon and is well-known due to the important role they play in the state’s economy and history. Even Meriwether Lewis and William Clark recognized the importance of these fish to the local Native Americans during their famous cross-country expedition. Fort Clatsop, which the explorers established south of Astoria, was named after a local tribe and means “dried salmon people.”

The Chinook salmon still use Oregon streams and rivers for their annual spawning migration. Interestingly, these fish are repelled by the smell of mammals, which is probably a defensive adaptation to help them avoid being eaten by the hungry bears who line the edges of the waterways looking for a quick meal.

Range and Habitat

Throughout the open ocean near the surface and at mid-depths. These fish return to fresh water rivers to spawn.

Conservation Status

A number of Chinook Salmon populations are considered endangered, but overall the species is making a healthy recovery in Oregon. The Spring 2010 salmon run was considered the most abundant in recorded history, with an estimated 500,000 fish making the journey to spawn through various rivers and streams. It is estimated that 80% of these fish are actually born in hatcheries.