Salmon are the best known icon of the Pacific Northwest. The Skagit River Watershed is the only watershed in the continental US to have runs of all Pacific salmon species: chinook (king), coho, chum, pink and sockeye. Every autumn between August and December, thousands of salmon work their way up the Skagit River, struggling against the current and leaping high out of the cascading whitewater to reach their spawning beds. The spectacle not only draws curious tourists but also hundreds of bald eagles that come to feed on the salmon and their spawned-out corpses.
While thousands of fish return each year, many salmon runs have been in decline for many years as a result of logging, dams, over-harvesting, cross-breeding with genetically inferior hatchery fish and a variety of other factors. Both Puget Sound Chinook salmon and Coastal Puget Sound bull trout (char) were listed as a threatened species in 1999.
The other varieties of trout found in the waters of the North Cascades include steelhead (sea-run rainbow), resident rainbow, sea-run cutthroat and resident cutthroat, all of which are evolutionary relatives of salmon known as salmonids.