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Oregon Coast Whale Watch Week Spreads to Two States, Over 360 Miles

Published 12/16/2019 at 4:35 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Whale Watch Week Spreads to Two States, Over 360 Miles

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(Oregon Coast) – Whales and lots of them are migrating past the Oregon coast right now, and the peak of it happens at the end of the month with Winter Whale Watch Week, December 27 – 31. It even includes one spot on the Washington coast. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) puts on these twice-yearly whale experiences, and this time the great beasts are moving southward as they head to Mexican waters. (Photo above: whales feeding, courtesy OPRD).

Trained volunteers from the Whale Watching Spoken Here program will be stationed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day at more than 20 of the best whale watching sites on the coast, ready to help visitors spot whales and answer questions about the animals. Whale guides will point out special behaviors such as spy hopping, breaching, and spouting, as well as discuss whale feeding, courtship, and migration patterns.

A map of volunteer-staffed sites is available on the official Oregon Coast Whale Watch Week page.

Some areas can see as much as 30 a day in that three-hour stretch that include the whale guides. 2015 saw 1,600 whales total across those 24 sites during that year’s event.

Gray whales are not the only coveted sight that week: you may get to see Orcas and Humpbacks marauding around the waters.

Some 25,000 grays wander past the Oregon coast over the whole of the migration season, which runs from December to maybe mid January. They give birth to their young in the warm lagoons near Baja. Mexico.

Luke Parsons, an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) ranger with the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, says one of the goals of the event is to create awareness and compassion for whales and other marine life.

"Whales are a special part of the Oregon coast," said Parsons. "Nearly 20,000 people visit our whale watch sites each winter and are educated by our excellent volunteers. I hope visitors walk away feeling a little more connected to these animals, along with a greater appreciation of our oceans."

The Whale Watching Center is the headquarters of it all, and it will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can check out interactive exhibits as well watch for the great cetaceans through the panoramic windows – or even outside the center against the seawall. Binoculars are provided. Park rangers will also be on hand to answer questions about the whales.

OPRD will be hosting live streaming of the whale activity as well from its YouTube channel.

Also jumping into the whale game is Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, running special whale programs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the whale week. 2030 SE Marine Science Dr, Newport.

The fun does not stop at the end of Whale Watching Week: they're here in fairly large numbers through the middle of January, but some still trickle through for another week or so after that. By February they're gone, until they start to pop up in early March as they head north again, this time with their babies in tow.

The Whale Watch Week sites begin with one on the Washington coast at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Ilwaco, Washington.

See Best of Oregon Coast Lodging for Whale Watching, Whale Watch Week

Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach has one, and the next is 15 miles south at the Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker Turnout on Highway 101, just above Manzanita.

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.

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 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.

There are two more about a 30-minute drive south, past Yachats, at the Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center and the Cook's Chasm Turnout (directly on the Lincoln County/Lane County line).

About 15 miles south of there is the Sea Lion Caves Turnout – the large Highway 101 turnout south of tunnel, and a bit north of Florence.

On the southern Oregon coast, the Whale Watch sites are Umpua Lighthouse State Park, Shore Acres State Park, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Battle Rock Wayside at Port Orford, Face Rock at Bandon, and in Brookings there’s Cape Ferrelo and Harris Beach State Park.

Oregon Coast Lodging for Whale Watching, Whale Watch Week - Where to eat - Map - Virtual Tour

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