Crowds gather at Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales to catch sight of incredible salmon migration spectacle

A salmon leaps up the falls at Stainforth Force, near Settle, this weekA salmon leaps up the falls at Stainforth Force, near Settle, this week
A salmon leaps up the falls at Stainforth Force, near Settle, this week
Salmon migration season has arrived in the Yorkshire Dales - and visitors to Stainforth Force waterfalls, near Settle, have been treated to some incredible displays as the fish navigate the falls to reach their spawning grounds upstream.

Yorkshire Dales National Park wildlife officer Mark Hewitt has credited a five-year project to improve fish passage from the Irish Sea to the River Ribble with helping salmon numbers recover.

Every autumn salmon travel from the Atlantic to their birthplace in the upper reaches of the Ribble to breed, and Stainforth Force is one of the best places to see them leap out of the water.

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From late September through till October, these fascinating fish demonstrate their acrobatic movement and sheer determination to find their way home.

The spectacle has proved popular with onlookers and photographersThe spectacle has proved popular with onlookers and photographers
The spectacle has proved popular with onlookers and photographers

"Stainforth is always a good place for sightings of them, it's a well-known spot in the Dales, though it's difficult to say if it has been a good year for them. You can get pretty close to them at the falls," said Mr Hewitt.

The life cycle of a salmon spans around eight years. They hatch in the uplands and spend the first few years of their life there, before heading downstream to spend their prime years in the Atlantic, often venturing as far north as Greenland.

They then return to their original hatchery to breed and most likely die, as they do not feed well in freshwater. The Ribble salmon enter and exit at the river's estuary into the Irish Sea on the west coast.

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The Ribble Rivers Trust has overseen the construction of fish passes to ease the fishes' journey upstream, after it was found that the construction of artificial weirs was proving an obstacle to the species' survival. In the past 25 years, the British salmon population has fallen by 25 per cent.

Salmon face a challenging migration back upstream - against the current and with many natural obstacles in their way - to reach their spawning groundsSalmon face a challenging migration back upstream - against the current and with many natural obstacles in their way - to reach their spawning grounds
Salmon face a challenging migration back upstream - against the current and with many natural obstacles in their way - to reach their spawning grounds

"There are a lot of obstructions, but Stainforth Force is a natural feature, it's small and stepped enough to let them pass - although they still make some immense leaps! Weirs are often very difficult for them, and they need to be higher up to breed, in gravel beds rather than silty lowland reaches.

"The fish passes on the Ribble and the Aire have had a huge impact - there are definitely fish getting through that wouldn't have been able to previously."

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