Salmons' leap returns to Yorkshire Dales waterfall as fish swim upstream to where they were born

The spectacular sight of salmon leaping up waterfalls to breed has thrilled nature lovers in the Dales.

Every autumn, salmon swim up the River Ribble to lay eggs, overcoming obstacles such as Stainforth Force, pictured here, and other waterfalls.

This is the final stage of a treacherous journey as the fish find their way back to where they were born and where they lived for the first year of their lives.

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Mark Hewitt, wildlife conservation officer with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), said it can be fraught with danger but there have been significant moves from the Ribble Rivers Trust over recent years to help them on their way.

Visitors watch on for salmon leaping on the River Ribble at Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales as the annual migration to their spawning grounds begins. Picture Tony Johnson

“What we are seeing at the moment is fish moving back up, from the Irish Sea right up the estuary and all the way up to Stainforth,” he said. “Anything that goes wrong in that catchment can have an impact.

“There’s a huge amount of luck – avoiding fishermen and seals, getting into the estuary, there’s a long way for them to travel. It may look like they’re never going to make it, but they can work their way up these natural steps.”

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Visitors watch on for salmon leaping on the River Ribble at Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales as the annual migration to their spawning grounds begins. Picture Tony Johnson

For more than five years, work has been underway from the Ribble Rivers Trust to look at the whole catchment for the rivers and to encourage the fish back to breed.

Among projects have been peat restoration work to ease eroding of the hillsides, which can fill the gravel beds and make it difficult for the salmon to lay.

The trust has also looked at removing weirs, protecting natural barriers like trees, and putting in fish passes to “reinvigorate” the river system.

The salmon likely breed in November or December, said Mr Hewitt, with a two-to-three week window now open to see their famous leap as they climb the waterfalls near Settle.

Visitors watch on for salmon leaping on the River Ribble at Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales as the annual migration to their spawning grounds begins. Picture Tony Johnson

“You can be stood on the edge watching fish leap six feet away,” said Mr Hewitt. “It’s a fantastic sight, but it does bring its own issues.

“Somewhere like Stainforth, which is easily accessible, it does bring pressures. As with anything in the countryside, we do need to be mindful.”

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Visitors watch on for salmon leaping on the River Ribble at Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales as the annual migration to their spawning grounds begins. Picture Tony Johnson
Visitors watch on for salmon leaping on the River Ribble at Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales as the annual migration to their spawning grounds begins. Picture Tony Johnson
Visitors watch on for salmon leaping on the River Ribble at Stainforth Force in the Yorkshire Dales as the annual migration to their spawning grounds begins. Picture Tony Johnson