18th annual Kokanee Festival at South Lake Tahoe, Calif. | NevadaAppeal.com

18th annual Kokanee Festival at South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Don Quilici

On Oct. 6-7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, the 18th annual Kokanee Salmon Festival will be held at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Visitor’s Center at South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

How to get there:

Take U.S. 50 west to its junction with Calif. S.R. 89 (The “Y”) at South Lake Tahoe. Then, take S.R. 89 north toward Camp Richardson and Tahoe City. Just past Camp Richardson, the Fallen Leaf Lake Road will be on your left. Continue traveling on S.R. 89 for several hundred more yards. The paved road on the right leads to the small parking area at the Visitor’s Center.

Parking:

Parking at the Visitor’s Center is very limited, and that parking lot fills up quickly early in the mornings. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

Some free parking is available at Camp Richardson, where visitors can walk back and forth between the Kokanee Salmon Festival and Octoberfest, or visitors are encouraged to ride a bike along the bike path between Camp Richardson and the Visitor Center.

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Activities include:

“The Drama of the Kokanee Salmon – An Interactive Play” to be performed in the Amphitheater on both days at 2 p.m.

Educational booths by Project Kokanee, Calif. Fish and Game, Lahontan National Fish Hatchery, a black bear display by NDOW and the Tahoe Council for Wild Bears, and a bald eagle display by U.S.F.S. biologists, self-guided nature tours and Kokanee Salmon T-shirt sales.

The El Dorado County Library, Explore Tahoe and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also have booths.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care will be serving a barbecue salmon plate, both days. For $12, visitors can feast on a barbecue salmon steak (the Pacific Ocean variety!), corn on the cob, coleslaw, roll and beverage. Other food items will also be available. Salmon will be served both days from 11 am to 4 p.m.

The Rainbow Trail will take you to the spawning Kokanee in both Taylor Creek and in the “Stream Profile” chamber. That unique underground chamber features exhibits and its floor-to-ceiling window allows visitors to look into the clear waters of Taylor Creek to observe the salmon and other fish in their native habitat.

The Kokanee “Cycle” Club Coloring Book is about the life cycle of the Kokanee Salmon and is free to children.

They can read and answer questions at designated spots along the Rainbow Trail and receive a free temporary tattoo after completing the “Cycle.”

From 10 am until 4 p.m. both days, visitors can learn about the natural wonders of Taylor Creek from U.S.F.S. Biologists, as they stroll along the Rainbow Trail.

On Sunday, 5K, 10K trail runs for adults, plus a children’s 1/2 mile run will be held. For a trails run application, call (530) 542-3424 or e-mail at kokaneetrailruns@sbcglobal.net.

Kokanee Salmon:

If you’re new to the area, the Festival is centered around the spectacular, annual spawning migration of the Kokanee Salmon (a landlocked version of the ocean-going Sockeye Salmon.

Kokanee were introduced (accidentally) into Lake Tahoe in 1944 by biologists working on the north shore. After that “release,” California planted Kokanee eggs in Taylor Creek (on the grounds of the Visitor’s Center) to initiate a spawning run at that location.

Since then, each year in the Fall, thousands of mature Kokanee make their way back from the waters of Lake Tahoe to their birth places in that crystal-clear creek.

Only the four-year-old Kokanee make this final journey.

As the time approaches in the Fall to make that journey upstream, the males develop a humped back and a heavy, hooked jaw to equip them for battles with other males for spawning nests in gravel, which are known as “Redds.”

Both males and females gradually change from normal, sleek, shiny silver/blue color to a brilliant red color with ugly white splotches, all over their bodies and fins.

They travel up Taylor Creek to display their spawning colors to attract a mate. Then having done so, they pair off to spawn. Once paired off, they fiercely battle other Kokanee to protect their Redds. After the female has deposited her eggs and the male has fertilized them, their mission in life is over and they die shortly afterwards.

After about 100 days, tiny fingerlings, called eye-sac fry, emerge from the gravel beds, journey down the creek to Lake Tahoe, and then, it’s their turn to continue the life cycle of the Kokanee Salmon.

For information:

Call the U.S.F.S. Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Center at Taylor Creek at (530) 543-2674 during business hours.

• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you about the Festival’s official mascot, “Sammy Salmon.”

If he grins and says, “At over five feet long (or tall), he is the world’s largest Kokanee salmon and the only one known to walk on his tail fins,” he wins this bet.

• Don Quilici is the Outdoor editor for the Nevada Appeal.