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Awesome Whale Numbers on Oregon Coast, Even Better on Tour Boats

Published 09/09/2017 at 5:27 AM PDT - Updated 09/09/2017 at 5:29 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Whales in Awesome Numbers on Oregon Coast, Even Better on Tour Boats

(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – Whale watching along much of the Oregon coast has been stellar as of late and it's not likely to slow down for another month. Gray whales are wandering close to shore quite a bit, and Humpbacks are putting on a show as well in some areas.

Luke Parsons, with Oregon State Parks and Recreation and the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay, said conditions are still really good for spotting whales on the central Oregon coast, and there are still many of them around.

Not only gray whales are being seen, but a decent amount of Humpback whales as well. While there have been sporadic reports of a lot of Humpbacks on the north Oregon coast – at the mouth of the Columbia River and Astoria – Parsons said quite a few have been spotted in the Depoe Bay and Newport portions of the shoreline.

Parsons said the Whale Watch Center has been recording about five to ten cetacean sightings a day. Those numbers appear to be consistent in other areas of Lincoln County as well, from what witnesses have been telling him.

“They've been seen in good numbers all the way down to Yachats,” Parson said. “Port Orford has been seeing a lot of them too.”

The cause is two big things: food and weather.

First, conditions have been great for spotting them in the first place. You need calmer waves to see them, as large waves not only chase them further out and away from the shoreline, but these act as big troughs which hide them from sight.

Secondly, the large food reserves close to shore keep the gray whales around. In this case, they gorge themselves on shrimp that hide in the abundant kelp forests around the Depoe Bay area. This is what often brings them so close.

“It's still feeding season,” Parsons said. “They're fattening themselves up for the big migration coming up in December.”

Right now, the famed Second Summer is starting to kick in on the coast, which is where the weather is at its nicest all year along the beaches. Less wind and more blues skies are typical about now. This goes from September through early October. That, coupled with the copious feeding, will keep them pretty abundant for quite a while.

“You'll see the grays through late October, maybe even early November if the weather is good,” Parsons said.

Even better news: these calm waves and whale numbers make this an amazing time to hit any of the whale watch tours that run out of Newport or Depoe Bay. Not only do your chances increase greatly, but Parsons said the word on the docks is the tour boats have been happening across a lot of whales – pretty much on every run. Seeing at least three whales on one tour is not unusual.

Part of the magic touch of the boats is that they can go out to three miles or so, much farther than you can see from shore.

“There are dozens of them out there, and you can find more if you can get out there further like the whale watch tours can,” Parsons said. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

On the north coast, around Astoria, it's small baitfish that bring in the Humpbacks. There's such an abundance of that food source just inside the Columbia the Humpbacks come out in droves. There was a massive run in July of them for a couple of weeks, but it's since mellowed quite a bit. It's not unusual for them to really hit that area hard in September, especially when it gets sunny and warm.





Humpback photos below courtesy Seaside Aquarium






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