All Along the Pacific Coast, Oregon Whale Watching Sites Make Viewing Easy and Informative
One of the top reasons people visit Oregon is to have an opportunity to view whales in their natural ocean habitat. When it comes to whale watching on the Pacific coast Oregon has dozens of developed sites, including those that are part of the Whale Watching Spoken Here program. A number of different species migrate up and down the Oregon coast, and some even live here for part of the year, making Oregon whale watching an easy, informative and enjoyable activity for both visitors and local residents.
Types of Whales You'll Find Along the Pacific Coast Oregon
Humpback whales: The Humpback is one of the larger species of whale; an adult can usually range between 40-50 feet long and weighs approximately 79,000 pounds. They have stocky bodies with obvious humps and black dorsal coloring. They are also known for knobby protrusions, or tubercles, on their heads and lower jaws. Although humpbacks are baleen whales, they also eat krill and small fish. While there are no resident populations in Washington or Oregon waters, humpback whales can be seen off the coast during migration in the fall and spring.
Killer whales: Killer whales, also called Orcas, are black with white markings on their sides and have teeth instead of baleen. Although their main diet is salmon, killer whales are occasionally seen along the Oregon coast during late April and May where they come in search of migrating female gray whales and their calves.
Gray whales: Gray whales are by far the most common type of whale seen along the Oregon coast. Adults average 45 feet in length and weigh approximately 35 tons. The gray whale is named for its blotchy color pattern, which is primarily caused by barnacles growing in the skin. Gray whales have baleen plates instead of teeth and double spouts.
The Pacific coast Oregon is a main route for migrating gray whales. From mid-December through January the whales migrate south from their feeding grounds in Alaska to their breeding grounds in Baja California, Mexico. Then from late March to June the whales, including new calves, migrate North back to Alaska.
There is also a group of gray whales that live off the Oregon coast from June to November rather than continue on to Alaska. These part-time resident gray whales number about 200, and approximately 60 of them have been identified as regulars so far. A large group of these summer whales hang out between Lincoln City and Newport each year.
Whale Watching Spoken Here Program
Oregon's Whale Watching Spoken Here program developed to help people get the most out of their Oregon whale watching experiences and their Oregon coast getaways. Over 1000 volunteers have been trained to assist visitors during peak whale watching times. At their interpretive center located along the seawall in Depoe Bay, Oregon State Parks staff and Whale Watching Spoken Here volunteers are available to answer questions and help you spot whales along the seashore.
Where to Spot Whales
In addition to the Whale Watching Center, the state maintains dozens of whale watching sites along the Pacific coast Oregon. Some of the more popular include:
- Ecola State Park
- Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Kiwanda, Pacific City
- Inn at Spanish Head, Lobby on 10th floor (most posh)
- Devil's Punchbowl (Otter Rock) State Natural Area
- Yaquina Head Lighthouse
- Cape Perpetua Overlook
- Sea Lion Caves Turnout-largest Highway 101 turnout south of tunnel
- Umpqua Lighthouse, near Umpqua Lighthouse State Park
- Cape Sebastian, south of Gold Beach
Seal Rock State Recreation Site and Yachats State Park are also good places to spot whales, although they are no longer Whale Watching Spoken Here sites.
Whale Watching Weeks - Best Times to Spot Whales
Each year during peak migration times, Whale Watching Spoken here sponsors whale watching weeks. One week is between Christmas and New Year's and the other is during the last week in March. During each whale-watch week hundreds of volunteers man 28 sites along the Pacific coast from Ilwaco, Washington to Crescent City, California.
Since 2004, the Whale Watching Spoken Here program has also offered a summer whale watching week to help view the part-time resident gray whales. It is typically held during the last week of August through the first Monday in September.
For a complete list of Whale Watching Spoken Here sites as well as more information about the program and other whale watching resources, check out their website at www.whalespoken.org or visit the Whale Watching Center on Highway 101at the south end of the bridge in Depoe Bay.
Tips to Enhance Your Oregon Coast Whale Watching Experience
Whether you look for whales on your own, or with the help of the Whale Watching Spoken Here folks, there are some suggestions that will improve your chances.
- Morning light with the sun at your back is best.
- First locate whale spouts with your naked eye before focusing in with binoculars or other viewing devices.
- For an up-close view, consider a chartered boat tour.
No Oregon coast getaways are complete without a glimpse of a whale of the shore, and with all the prime viewing locations and helpful area experts, you are almost guaranteed to spot a blow, spy hop or breach no matter what time of year you visit. So bring your binoculars and have a whale of a time!