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Whale Sightings on Oregon Coast At Record Levels This Year


Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.


Secrets of the Season

Whale Sightings on Oregon Coast At Record Levels This Year

Whale photos courtesy Whale Watch Center and Morris Grover

(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – The weather may be cold but the whale viewing will be hot between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, as the Whale Watching Spoken Here” week gets ready to kick into high gear, running December 26 to January 1.

During this week, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., volunteers will be stationed at overlooks and parks all over the Oregon coast, helping the public learn about gray whales, and spot them in the ocean. Volunteers will be at the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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This time around could be an especially engaging one, as officials say whale sightings have been running at record levels all year. Morris Grover, with the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay, said the rush is already on, with whales well on their way during their southbound migration.

In a press release, Grover said sightings of whales have been smokin’ all year long, and it could mean a bonanza of whales and their tails for tourists to the Oregon coastline.

“Weather always plays a part in determining how many whales are seen,” Grover said. "Otherwise, I see no reason why our counts shouldn’t follow this year’s trend. The number of sightings recorded last spring was the highest it has been in more than 10 years. We also had a very good summer for whale watching on the central coast.”

Weather can interfere with whale watching not because they are annoyed or frightened by heavy surf, but because tall waves make it hard to see them.

Depoe Bay

"Rough weather presents a visual whale watching problem,” Grover said. “A whale’s back or tail usually would only be visible about three to six feet above the water line. A four- to eight-foot wave would make them ‘invisible’ to watchers looking across the waves. Even the whale’s spout that could be as tall as 12 feet is usually blown sideways by the wind, making it only three to four feet tall. We have seen whales during storms, but that is usually when a swell pushes the whale up to where we can see it.”

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In October, Grover and his crew noticed a brief dramatic decline in whale sightings immediately after the big storms of that month. But the two are probably not directly related. Whales react more to their food sources, which may have been tossed around and jostled into hiding during heavy surf events.

“The whales will migrate regardless of weather,” Grover said. “They are driven by nature to get to the Baja for birthing; pregnant females are usually the first whales headed south. Weather is just something they live with. It’s their ocean and they are used to it.”

Whale Watch Center, Depoe Bay

A flat ocean is better for spotting them. In fact, Keith Chandler, with the Seaside Aquarium, says he spots more whales in Seaside during the fall's "second summer" months - when there is the least wind at any time of the year - because the waves are at their flattest. More on that here.

Even in bad weather, Grover said visitors “always have a chance” to spot a whale by following these tips offered by volunteers:

- Have your binoculars ready, but watch with your eyes. "When you locate a blow, then bring up your binoculars for a closer look," said Grover.

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- Learn the diving and traveling habits of the whales. "Ask a volunteer, or go to our whale watching web site at (www.whalespoken.org) so you will know how often and where they may surface."

- If possible, use the morning light, which helps a watcher spot blows. "Afternoon light reflects off the water, shining in your eyes and making viewing difficult. Also, the sea is usually calmer in the mornings because the winds are quieter at those hours."

Grover added that the 28 official whale watching locations offer the best chances for seeing whales. "We've selected the very best viewpoints. Although whales can be visible anywhere along the coast at this time of year, viewing from the beaches offers the poorest angles." More information about "Whale Watching Spoken Here" sites, exhibits and related products and services is online at www.whalespoken.org.

This is the 30th year of the twice-annual event, which in recent years expanded by adding a summertime whale watch week for the central coast.

Whale Watch Sites (from Washington to Florence - does not include south coast):

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center – at Ilwaco, Washington
Ecola State Park - Cannon Beach
Neahkahnie Mountain, at turnout – above Manzanita
Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint – just west of Tillamook, north of Oceanside
Cape Lookout – at the tip of the cape (a 2.5-mile hike), between Oceanside and Pacific City
Cape Kiwanda - Pacific City
Inn at Spanish Head – Lincoln City (lobby on 10th floor)
Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint – just north of Depoe Bay
Whale Watch Center and sea wall – Depoe Bay
Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint – just s. of Depoe Bay
Cape Foulweather: Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint – just north of Newport
Devil's Punch Bowl State Natural Area at Otter Rock – north of Newport
Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Outstanding Natural Area - Newport
Don A. Davis Memorial Park – Newport, Nye Beach: at the kiosk
Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site - Newport
Cape Perpetua Overlook – s. of Yachats
Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center – s. of Yachats
Cook's Chasm, Cape Perpetua – s. of Yachats
Sea Lion Caves – north of Florence, at the turnout

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Lincoln City Vacation Homes Something for everyone: smaller homes with a view to a large house that sleeps 15. All are either oceanfront or just a few steps away – all with a low bank access and fantastic views. Most are in the Nelscott area; one is close to the casino. You’ll find a variety of goodies: fireplaces, multiple bedrooms, dishwashers, Jacuzzis, washer/dryers, hot tubs, cable TV, VCR, barbecues; there’s a loft in one, and another sprawling home has two apartments. Pets allowed in some homes – ask first. Each comes with complete kitchens. Most have seventh night free. Prices range from winter $85 to summer $230 per night. www.getaway2thecoast.com. 541-994-8778.

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Condo-hotel that offers the amenities of a fine hotel, but also includes ownership of a vacation home on the north Oregon coast. It is a unique opportunity, as condo owners have an opportunity to share in the revenues of their unit. All have either spectacular, nearly aerial views of the ocean and city, or they gaze out at the lush forests of the coast range mountains. There are private balconies in all rooms, which come as studios or units with one bedroom or two - as large as 850 square feet. Each is fully furnished. $189,000 to $449,000, (with most in the $300,000 range.) When owners are not using their units, they may be rented out as hotel rooms, and owners may share in those revenues.
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Tradewinds Motel, Rockaway Beach. All rooms are immaculate and have TV’s, VCR’s and in-room phones w/ data ports. Oceanfronts have queen bed, a double hide-a-bed, kitchen, cozy firelog fireplace and private deck. Both types sleep up to four people. Others are appointed for a two-person romantic getaway, yet still perfect for those on a budget. Elaborate oceanfront Jacuzzi suite has two bedrooms, kitchen, double hide-a-bed, fireplace and private deck, sleeping as many as six. For family reunions or large gatherings such as weddings, some rooms can connect to create two-room and three-room suites. Some rooms pet friendly. 523 N. Pacific St., Rockaway Beach. (503) 355-2112 - 1-800-824-0938. www.tradewinds-motel.com

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For over 80 years a favorite of Seaside visitors. 51 oceanfront condos, individually owned and decorated. Suites for couples, small apartments with fireplaces and kitchenettes, one or two bed family units with fireplaces, kitchens and dining rooms. Oceanview cottages sleep anywhere from two to eight, w/ two bedrooms, some with lofts, fireplaces and kitchens. Heated outdoor pool, enormous grounds w/ picnic tables - all at quiet southern end of Seaside.

20 gorgeous homes sleep up to 18; doubled that with some side-by-side homes. Some pet friendly. Cottages to massive homes; new oceanfront to renovated historic beach houses. All over central coast w/ Lincoln City, Otter Rock, Boiler Bay and Nye Beach. Long list of features, including barbecues, large decks, antique furnishings, wood stoves, gas fireplaces, hardwood floors, Jacuzzis and hot tubs. Most have movies, music, books. Gift basket w/ goodies in each

17 lavish, beachfront suites feature Jacuzzi or outdoor hot tub, gas fireplace, luxury robes & linens, TV, two-headed showers. Three large suites have kitchens. Private deck w/ BBQ available. No smoking or pets. Perfect for romantic getaway, honeymoon.