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2022's Oregon Coast Whale Watch Season Begins Now With Babies in Tow, Orcas

Published 03/04/22 at 5:02 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

2022's Oregon Coast Whale Watch Season Begins Now With Babies in Tow, Orcas

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(Oregon Coast) – Get ready for lots of whales along the entire length of the Oregon coast, but without volunteers to help you find them. (Above: a mother gray whale and her calf at Seaside, courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

The big spring migration of gray whales begins any minute now (although no major sightings reported as of yet, except for two orca incidents), as March is when it all generally starts. Again the peek week is spring break for Oregon schools: March 21 – 25, but there will be no official Whale Spoken Here volunteers along the 20-some vantage points that Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) utilizes for the official Whale Watch Week.

Instead, State Parks will feature its live streams on those days from 10 a.m. To 2 p.m. on its Oregon State Parks YouTube channel. While the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay is not open yet, the live streams will be from the ocean area in front of the town, which typically has the thickest density of whales along the entire Oregon coast.

Still, with the season starting right now, OPRD encourages everyone to get out to the coast soon and look for the gray whales. Some 18,000 or so live off the shores of the western U.S. and many of them will be marauding through with their newborn babies in tow. Grays just recently migrated south to their birthing waters in the warm lagoons of Baja, Mexico, and now they are on their way to the rich feeding grounds of Alaska.

Best of Oregon Coast Whale Watching Hotels, Lodging

Gray whales will be seen all the way through June en route northward, but numerous individuals will stick around the south Oregon coast through to the central Washington coast during summer, creating more sightings – especially if you're on one of the whale watch cruises.

Whale in Depoe Bay, courtesy OPRD

OPRD has numerous designated whale watching locations which offer the best chances of seeing them because this is where the whales tend to stay close and because of their high elevation.

OPRD this week announced it plans to reopen the Whale Watch Center sometime later this year, which will be excellent news to whale fans and those just waiting for a sense of normality after the pandemic. The agency said it takes a few weeks of training for volunteers to be able to help out during Whale Watch Week, so there was not enough time to implement new staff for this whale watch session, even though mask mandates will largely be gone in Oregon on March 12.

One of the highlights of the spring gray whale migrations is the appearance of killer whales, which normally come a bit later – around April or so. It's a rare thrill to see these, but this season may already have a good headstart. A pair of orcas were photographed in Brookings last week, and on Wednesday another two or three orcas were caught on a Brookings harbor webcam.

You may also get to see humpback whales during these migrations.

Along the southern Oregon coast, Whale Watch spots are: Harris Beach, Cape Ferrelo, Battle Rock, Face Rock Scenic Viewpoint, Shore Acres near Coos Bay, and Reedsport's Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. Just north of there, there is the Sea Lion Caves Turnout, Cook's Chasm Turnout, and the Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center.

In Lincoln County, you'll find the highest number of sites: Inn at Spanish Head Lobby on 10th floor (Lincoln City), Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint (near Depoe Bay), the Whale Watching Center deck in Depoe Bay, Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint (just south of Depoe Bay), Cape Foulweather and the Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area (both between Newport and Depoe Bay), Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport; and Don Davis City Park, also in Newport.

On the Three Capes Tour there is Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, Cape Lookout State Park (that one requires a 2.5-mile hike to the site at the tip of the Cape), and then several miles south at the top of Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City.

On the north coast, view them from the Wreck of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens and Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker Turnout on Highway 101, just above Manzanita.

The very northernmost viewing spot is on the Washington coast at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Ilwaco, Washington.

These are only Oregon State Parks' usual spots, but most high vantage points will do well. The clifftops above Meyers Creek Beach or near Sisters Rocks on the south Oregon coast will be perfect, as well as the various vantage points around Port Orford. On the central Oregon coast, the high gravel pullout just south of Yachats or the concrete walls immediately south of Heceta Head will also be excellent spots for whale watching. In Lincoln City, the clifftop viewpoints at NW 26th St. and NW 21st will make for good viewing.

Along the Three Capes, Anderson's Viewpoint just south of Cape Meares State Park is also good, along with the viewpoints around Silver Point just south of Cannon Beach.

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Whale at Oceanside, courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Courtesy OPRD

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