Central Oregon Coast Teeming with Whale Possibilities
Published 12/04/2015 at 5:15 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff
(Lincoln City, Oregon) - For the holiday season, share the gift of whale watching along the central Oregon coast. There, perhaps the most activity happens in a variety of ways when it comes to this month's Whale Watch Week. Starting December 27 through 31, this natural spectacle is one of the best times of the year to spot gray whales off the wild Oregon coastal shores. Approximately 18,000 whales will travel 12,000 miles south to Mexico, where they will give birth to their calves.
There are nearly 40 different volunteer staffed locations where you can spot gray whales on the Oregon coast, including the 10th floor of the prestigious Inn at Spanish Head in Lincoln City. From the top floor, visitors can spot these creatures nearly every hour in late December as they make their journey.
Between Lincoln City and Newport lie the thickest layers of whale watch spots where volunteers hang out, with more than anywhere else on the coast. Around Depoe Bay there is Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, the Whale Watching Center, Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint and Cape Foulweather. In and around Newport there is Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and Don Davis Park in Nye Beach.
Whales have already started showing up, so your chances of spotting them are decent when calmer weather finally comes to the Oregon coast once more. Even if you miss this Whale Watch Week, their peak migration continues through late January, when it starts to trail off.
For a more up-close and personal view, Dockside Charters in Depoe Bay offers daily whale watching excursions starting in mid-December. Just 8 miles south of Lincoln City, Depoe Bay is considered the "Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast" and is also home to the Oregon State Parks Whale Watching Center.
"We offer 90 minute whale watching excursions for the winter," said Loren Goddard, one of the owners of Dockside Charters. "Typically our excursions are an hour long, but because the whales are moving fast to Mexico, we have to accommodate for that. We recommend that visitors make reservations early because the winter excursions are very popular."
Goddard said these trips are extremely popular.
"Visitors are curious about whales on the coast,” Goddard said. “And the whales are just as curious about us as we are of them. The best part is when they come right up to the boat. Seeing these mammals up-close is a very special experience."
During the winter and spring months, Oregon State Parks posts trained volunteers at prime viewing points along the Oregon Coast to help visitors spot the mighty mammals. Their "Whale Watching Spoken Here" signs identify the volunteers. They will point out special behaviors such as spy hopping, breaching, and spouting, as well as discuss whale feeding, courtship, and migration patterns.
Not long ago, the whale population dipped to 1,800 making them "commercially extinct." Today, under the protection of the Mexican and US governments, the population has grown to more than 20,000 whales. Gray whales may grow to 45 feet (13.7 meters) in length - longer than a city bus - and weigh more than 45 tons (41,000 kg).
Above: Rockaway Beach whale, photo courtesy Patti Barry
Below: photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium
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