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Oregon Coast Whale Week December Dates Announced; a Preview, Changes

Published 12/14/22 at 5:45 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Whale Week December Dates Announced; a Preview, Changes

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(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – Finally, Oregon Coast Winter Whale Watch Week is back in person, with live volunteers once again – the first time in over three years. Not many details have been released yet, but Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) has announced the dates for this winter whale extravaganza: December 28, 2022 through Sunday, January 1, 2023.

Last spring's Whale Watch Week was more or less back, but no volunteers were available because there wasn't enough time to train them once the decision was made to restart the program. Instead, OPRD had live cams on the area outside the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, just like during the pandemic.

Now, however, real people will be back on those 17 or so Oregon coast viewpoints – at least so far that's the plan. The latest update from OPRD seems to indicate not all viewpoints will be manned - and there are now 17 instead of what was 24 sites in years previous.

There have been some changes to the program, Whale Spoken Here. For one, the old website is no more, with the official url now Also, the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay is finally reopened.

Photo OPRD

Oregon Coast Beach Connection checked in with park ranger / manager Jered Mangini, and he said OPRD's Peter McBride has taken the reigns at the center.

The peak season for winter migration usually begins about now, with the big peak normally during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Currently, the numbers of sightings are rather low, Mangini said, which follows what most of the whale watch groups on Facebook are echoing. There's nothing to post about.

“Whales have been few and far between lately but partly due to the weather and ocean conditions making it hard to spot them,” he said. “Average numbers for this time of year.”

Mangini said they have no predictions on how many whales we'll see marauding off the Oregon coast this season. However, there are more eyes on the region now, between whale watch social media groups for the north Oregon coast, south coast and central coast – along with the ever-growing popularity of the Killer Whale Facebook group, spearheaded out of Canada.

Researchers say there are about 18,000 gray whales living off the west coast of the U.S., including the Oregon coast and Washington coast. Often, volunteers at the various sites and the Whale Watching Center encounter around 30 wandering past per hour.

Typically, killer whales are not seen much until the spring, but there have been some surprises on and off over the year noted by the Facebook group.

As for the center, since it opened up is there anything different?

“There are new interpretive displays that have been a big hit since we re-opened,” Mangini said.

Between the various Facebook groups and the restart of the whale watching volunteers, it should be an interesting migration season along the Oregon coast.

The program is still looking for more volunteers.

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Whale near Oceanside, courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Photo OPRD

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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