It’s spring whale watching season on the Oregon coast! Although you can spot whales almost year-round, the majority of gray whale traffic heading north occurs toward the end of March. According to the Whale Watching Center located in the tiny town of Depoe Bay, about 18,000 whales pass by during March, April, May and June on their way from Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula 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 their offspring resting in protected coves close to shore.
If you’re not indoors at the Whale Watch Center, any outdoor elevated site is ideal for spotting the magnificent gray whales that can reach 35 feet in length and weigh more than 30 tons. From northerly Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, down south to Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, about two dozen prime spots make it easy to watch gray whales blow, dive, spyhop, and breach.
During Oregon’s official Spring Whale Watching Week— Saturday, March 19 though Saturday, March 26, 2011— knowledgeable volunteers will be on hand at official “Whale Watching Spoken Here” sites from 10 a.m. — 1 p.m. to help you spot gray whales and answer questions. Click here to get a map and directions.
Don’t forget your binoculars! Keep them focused and ready to grab, but watch with your eyes first. After 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.
Don’t worry if you can’t visit the Oregon Coast during official Spring Whale Watching Week. Since thousands of gray whales are migrating this time of year, you’ve got several weeks to spot them on their journey north.
119 SW Highway 101
Depoe Bay, OR 97341
Phone: (541) 765-3304
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