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S. Washington Coast and Oregon Coast Humpback Sightings Soar

Published 08/30/2019 at 7:43 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff


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(Long Beach, Washington) – A little over 200 years ago, Lewis & Clark and their Corps of Discovery were stranded for five days in a stretch of river near the Pacific Ocean – right between the Washington coast and the Oregon coast – with no food and quickly-waning spirits. It was a place so bad they called it Dismal Nitch, later known as Clark’s Dismal Nitch as the name stuck. (Photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

That river was the Columbia River, and that little place they huddled together became part of a famed rest stop area along the southern edge of the Washington coast.

In the last week, however, it – like much of the Columbia – has been a hotspot for whales. Primarily Humpback whales.

Facebook whale watch groups were shouting about it, and Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium snapped a few eye-popping pictures. She too was exuberant about the run of sightings, with some stunning posts from August 27.



“Regional humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangilae) can be spotted breaching (jumping out of the water) and slapping the water with their tail and pectoral fins during their 3,000-mile migration between northern Alaskan waters and breeding grounds of Hawaii,” she said. “These sixty-foot-long mammals can be identified by an obvious hump, a knobby head and long pectoral fins which can reach up to fifteen feet across. Other identifiable features include a white underbelly and white markings under their fins and tail fluke.”

Boothe added the behemoths live about 80 to 90 years, reaching their reproductive stage at five to ten years old. On average, they weigh about 40 tons. You find Humpbacks in all major oceans around the planet, she said, but each population segment has their own individual migration patterns and home waters.

“Typically Humpbacks in our area are seen feeding during the summer months five to fifteen miles off the coast, but venture closer to follow bait balls of small fish,” she said. “A small handful of individuals have been known to brave the Columbia River when smolt runs are prolific and can spend a few days or a few weeks within the lower reaches of the river consuming up to 3,000 pounds of krill and small fish per day. A few great locations to see the river-exploring whales include Hammond Marina and Cape Disappointment State Park.”

Recent weeks have seen lots of whale activity along the Washington coast and the Oregon coast – especially the upper half. On the central coast, there’s a fair amount of Humpback sightings but lots of gray whales. Up on the lower Columbia region around Astoria and the Long Beach Peninsula, it’s been more Humpbacks than grays. Boothe said even the northern peninsula area has seen lots of the Humpbacks just off the breakers.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge has seen some good action as well.

A bit further south, Boothe said the Neahkahnie viewpoints of Manzanita and Silver Point just south of Cannon Beach are also great spots to catch sight of the creatures. Hotels in Astoria/Seaside - Where to eat - Astoria Maps and Virtual Tours - More photos below





Other gray whale photos from Seaside Aquarium below



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