The simple fact that the salmon are running is reason enough to visit Utah's busiest fishing hole — Strawberry Reservoir.
Having the third annual Strawberry Valley Wildlife Festival this weekend is a bonus.
Highlight of the wildlife-education event, of course, is the running of the kokanee salmon. Thousands of salmon move to shallows and rivers where they will change from silver to a brilliant red, spawn and die. It happens this way every year.
The natural cycle is helped along by fish biologists who take some of the eggs, raise them to hatching age in hatcheries, then eventually release them back into the reservoir.
Under natural conditions — that is, spawning in a stream bed — an egg has about a 20 percent chance of producing a fish. In hatcheries, success rises to more than 80 percent.
All of this will be explained to visitors during the festival, which runs Friday through Sunday.
There will be two main sites — the Strawberry visitors center near the western end of Strawberry Reservoir, and the Daniels Summit Lodge, which is a few miles west of the reservoir. A boardwalk near the center follows the Strawberry River where the salmon can be seen.
The festival is intended to acquaint people with the abundance of opportunities within the Strawberry Valley, aside from the fishing.
"One of the things we hope for is to try to develop more responsible use of wilderness resources," said Robyn Pearson, Wasatch County economic director. "We have a long list of recreational opportunities here in the county."
Julie King, Heber District ranger for the Uinta National Forest, pointed out that while the valley is famous for fishing, "It is also home to more than 50 birds of prey, foxes, coyotes, song birds, moose, elk and many other types of wildlife."
Strawberry Reservoir receives nearly a million hours of angling time a year. The next closest challenger receives less than a third that much.
"The goal of the Strawberry Valley Festival is to create a family oriented celebration of wildlife and to promote ecosystem health and teach appropriate resource uses in the valley," said Elizabeth Lehmer, director of marketing for Daniels Summit Lodge.
Pearson said plans are to have an event building constructed within the township of Heber within two years.
"When that happens, this event will take on a life of its own. We plan to expand the festival to include fly fishing, backpacking and all kinds of goods and services, " he said.
"It will be a place where people can actually come and view wildlife and actually go on trips and tours and experience things firsthand as opposed to talking with someone in a booth."
Among those presenting at the festival will be Tracy Aviary, which will have live-bird demonstrations, and the Utah Back Country Horsemen, which will focus on exploring some of the hidden reaches of Utah by horseback.
Jim Gunderson of Fish Tech Outfitters, the reigning western long distance fly-casting champion, will give two demonstrations on Saturday.
There will also be a photo workshop, a nature/birding tour, a report on the future of Strawberry and snowmobile safety tips.
Schedule of events
at Daniels Summit Lodge
3 p.m. - Mountain bike safety tips
4 p.m. - Tracy Aviary
5 p.m. - Molly Waters on xeriscaping and water conservation tips
6-8 p.m. - Wildlife photography tips and slide show by Lynn Chamberlain, professional photographer and DWR conservation outreach manager
at Daniels Summit Lodge
9 a.m. - U.S. Coast Guard - boat safety checks
10 a.m. - Nature/birding walk with Jeff Waters of the USFS—meet at Strawberry Visitor Center
11 a.m. - Tracy Aviary bird demonstration
Noon - Jim Gunderson, fly casting demonstration
1 p.m. - Fly tying techniques by Western Rivers Fly Fisher
2 p.m. - Jim Gunderson, fly casting demonstration
3 p.m. - Roger Wilson, DWR Strawberry Reservoir project leader, "Management and Future of Strawberry Reservoir"
4 p.m. - Tracy Aviary bird demonstration
5 p.m. - Snowmobile safety tips
6 p.m. - Charmaine Thompson, USFS archeologist, "History of the Strawberry Valley"
7 p.m. - Danny Potts, Salt Lake County Fish & Game Association, "Strawberry Fishing Techniques"