It’s spring and whale watching season on the Oregon coast is in full swing. Although whale watching takes place almost year-round here, the majority of gray whale traffic heading north occurs toward the end of March. According to the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, about 18,000 whales pass by during March, April, May and June on their way to Alaska’s Bering Sea. The gray whales in this migration are spread out, but they are closer to shore (1/2 – 3 miles). Juveniles pass first, followed by adults. Last are the mothers and calves. In April and May, it’s common to see mothers and babies resting in protected coves close to shore.
Any elevated site is ideal for spotting the magnificent gray whales that can reach 35 feet in length and weigh more than 30 tons. If you’re a first-time whale watcher, remember to bring binoculars. Focus your binoculars and have them ready, but watch with your eyes. Once you locate a blow (air that is exhaled as a whale surfaces after a dive), then use binoculars for a closer look. The blow, or spout, is about 12 feet high and will “hang” in the air for a few moments. Morning light (with the sun at your back) is often helpful for spotting blows. Afternoon light reflects off the water and tends to make viewing more difficult.
From Ecola State Park down south to Brookings, about two dozen prime spots make it easy to watch gray whales blow, dive, spyhop, and breach. Print a map and directions here. During Oregon’s official Spring Whale Watching Week— Saturday, March 20 – Saturday, March 27, 2010— knowledgeable volunteers will be on hand at these official “Whale Watching Spoken Here” sites from 10 a.m. — 1 p.m. to help you spot gray whales and answer questions. But don’t worry if you can’t visit during this particular time, you’ve got several weeks to spot the whales as they journey north.
- Ecola State Park
- Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker Turnout on Highway 101
- Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Lookout State Park – 2.5 mile hike to site at tip of Cape
- Cape Kiwanda
- Inn at Spanish Head, lobby on 10th floor
- Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint
- The Whale Watching Center/Depoe Bay Sea Wall
- Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Foulweather
- Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area
- Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
- Don Davis City Park
- Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center
- Cook’s Chasm Turnout
- Sea Lion Caves Turnout – large Highway 101 turnout south of tunnel
- Umpqua Lighthouse, near Umpqua Lighthouse State Park
- Shore Acres State Park
- Face Rock Wayside State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Blanco Lighthouse, near Cape Blanco State Park
- Battle Rock Wayfinding Point, Port Orford
- Cape Sebastian
- Cape Ferrelo
- Harris Beach State Park, Brookings
Since thousands of gray whales pass by the Oregon Coast in all seasons, with a little luck and knowledge, you’ll spot them on your next visit!
Near Shore Acres State Park (RV camping here)
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119 SW Highway 101
Depoe Bay, OR 97341
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In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com