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Fraser Canyon Slides & Impacts on Salmon

Fraser Canyon Slides & Impacts on Salmon

Landslides in BC in 2021 are a sober reminder of the serious impacts that slides can have on communities, infrastructure and transportation routes.

Slides can also seriously impact waterways - such as how and where rivers flow and how passable they become following a slide. The project “Landslide impact on flow dynamics, fish migration and genetics of Fraser River salmon” examines how past and present slides in the Fraser River Canyon have affected river flows and migrating salmon populations.

At a Glance

Here's an infographic overview of the Fraser Landslides Research Project.

Fraser Landslides Infographic

Project Background

Late in 2018, a large amount of material broke away from the cliffs above the Fraser River, southwest of Clinton, BC, in a remote section of the river. The Big Bar Slide, as it was called, created a blockage in the river that significantly and negatively affected migrating salmon due to adverse water flows, and cost millions of dollars in ongoing mitigation costs.

The impacts of another slide similar to the Big Bar Slide could be catastrophic. Migrating Fraser River salmon populations are at record low numbers, and another significant slide blocking migration could spell disaster for these already stressed and vulnerable salmon populations. However, the likelihood of a similar slide occurring again is unknown.

The project, “Landslide impact on flow dynamics, fish migration and genetics of Fraser River salmon” is a collaboration between academia and First Nations, and aims to understand how past and present slides in the Fraser River Canyon have affected river flows and subsequent migrating salmon populations. Analysis of past slide dynamics will be used to develop a predictive model of potential future slide activity, and may inform potential future slide response. Indigenous Knowledge holders will be engaged to assess the understanding of past slide events and their impacts on salmon migration in Fraser Canyon First Nations communities.

This three-year project will ultimately aim to assess the potential and risk of another slide blocking the Fraser River, and the impact of such a slide on migrating salmon.

Whoosh fish passage at Big Bar slide

A Whooshh fish passage system was temporarily installed at the Big Bar Slide to move fish in tubes to a site upstream of the slide, and steps later undertaken on a concrete fish ladder. Encouraging update — an estimated 1.9 million late migrating salmon made their own way past the blockage in 2021, thanks to their perseverance, favourable river conditions and work to help with passage. Learn more about work at the Big Bar slide site on the DFO website and through photos from 2020 and 2021. Photo: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Province of BC Flickr, Creative Commons.

Project Team

Research Team

Jeremy Venditti [Principle Investigator], Elizabeth Dingle, Shawn Chartrand and Jon Moore - Simon Fraser University (SFU)

Brian Menounos - University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC)

Derek Heathfield - Hakai Institute (HI)

Greg Owens - University of Victoria (UVic)

Isaac Larsen - University of Massachusetts (UMass)

David Patterson, Kendra Robinson, Ben Sutherland, Mike Hawkshaw - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)

Kimberly Sivak - Project Manager, SFU

Erin Seagren - Research Manager, SFU

Facilitation, Engagement and Communications Team

Greg Witzky - Fraser Salmon Management Council

Kim Menounos and Lindsay Sackett - Fraser Basin Council


The project team is grateful for the contributions that make the project possible.

  • Funding from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, BC Salmon Innovation and Restoration Fund
  • In-kind support from Hakai Institute, SFU River Dynamics Laboratory, and DFO eWatch and Big Bar Slide Monitoring Program

Contact Us

Kim Menounos, Northern Interior Regional Manager
Fraser Basin Council


Our Vision

Social well-being supported by a vibrant economy and sustained by a healthy environment.

About the Fraser Basin Council

The Fraser Basin Council (FBC) is a charitable non-profit organization that brings people together to advance sustainability in the Fraser River Basin and throughout BC. Established in 1997, FBC is a collaboration of four orders of government (federal, provincial, local and First Nations) along with those from the private sector and civil society. We work with people in multiple sectors, helping them find collaborative solutions to today’s issues through a commitment to the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Our focus is on healthy water and watersheds, action on climate change and air quality and strong, resilient communities and regions.

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Partner Sites

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Climate Action Toolkit: 

Salmon-Safe BC

Contact Us

FBC has offices in Vancouver, Kamloops, Williams Lake and Prince George. We also have staff located in Abbotsford and Vernon.

To reach us, see FBC Offices and FBC Staff.

Our main office is:

Fraser Basin Council
1st Floor, 470 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 1V5

T: 604 488-5350
F: 604 488-5351