Spring Whale Watch Week starts March 28

Courtesy photo

March 22, 2023 — Oregon State Parks has announced it will host Spring Whale Watch Week, in person, along the Oregon Coast Tuesday, March 28 through Sunday, April 2.

Every year thousands of gray whales pass through Oregon’s waters in the spring on their journey home from the calving lagoons in Mexico, and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department invites visitors to the coast to see them.

Trained volunteers will be stationed at 17 sites to help visitors spot whales, share information and answer questions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. The sites are some of the best places to watch for whales on the Oregon Coast.

Three of the sites are a relatively short drive from Florence — Heceta Head Lighthouse (12 miles north of Florence), Cape Perpetua (23 miles north) and Umpqua Lighthouse (28 miles south).

A map of the other volunteer-staffed sites is available online on the official event webpage: https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=thingstodo.dsp_whaleWatching.

“Spring is a great time for whale watching because the gray whales are usually closer to shore on their return trip, typically around a mile or so out, and the weather is a little warmer for visitors,” said Park Ranger Peter McBride.

An estimated 18,000 gray whales are expected to swim past Oregon’s shores from late March through June as part of their annual migration back toward Alaska. The end of March is the beginning of this migration and timed perfectly for spring break.

Oregon State Parks typically hosts two Whale Watch Weeks each year; in the winter when gray whales head south for Mexico and in the spring when they return to their homes in the ocean around Alaska. After a two-year hiatus because of COVID-19, in-person, volunteer staff returned for Winter Whale Watch last Dec. 28.

Oregon’s Whale Watch Weeks are organized by the Whale Watching Spoken Here® program.

In 1978 Don Giles of the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport headed out to Yaquina Head Lighthouse with his binoculars and a great idea. Colleagues Bruce Mate and Denise Herzing were counting gray whales migrating past Yaquina Head. They confirmed what Don and others intuitively knew: Gray whale migrations along the Oregon coast peak during two special times of the year. The southbound migration happens during the winter holiday season, and the northbound has one of its two peaks near the end of March.

This knowledge motivated Don to create the Whale Watching Spoken Here® program. Since 1978, it has grown to become one of the most organized onshore whale watching programs in the United States.

For those looking for a dynamic whale sighting opportunity, the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Visitors to the center can enjoy interactive whale exhibits and take in the panoramic ocean views. Binoculars are provided. Rangers from Oregon State Parks will also be on hand to answer questions about the whales. The Whale Watching Center is located at 119 Highway 101 in Depoe Bay.

All Whale Watch Week visitors are encouraged to dress for the weather, to bring binoculars and to follow beach safety guidelines such as remaining out of fenced areas, knowing the tide schedule and keeping an eye on the surf at all times. Go to https://visittheoregoncoast.com/beach-safety/ for a list of safety tips.

For more information about coast parks and campgrounds, visit oregonstateparks.org.