For the first time since 2019, spring whale watching will return to the Oregon Coast with its most popular feature (other than the marine mammals): guided assistance.
The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department has announced it will host Whale Week in person, which gets underway Tuesday, March 28, and runs through Sunday, April 2.
Last year, the event went forward following a two-year pause due to the pandemic, but there was one aspect missing. The trained volunteers who help people spot spouts and dorsal fins from the shore were not in attendance, and it had nothing to do with COVID. Instead, the absence had to do with limited service and then-ongoing staff shortages—a challenge that land and park agencies across the state have faced since the initial pandemic shutdown in spring 2020.
This time around, volunteers will be stationed at 17 sites from 10 am to 1 pm daily, keeping their eyes peeled for any of the thousands of gray whales that pass through Oregon’s waters on their journey back north to Alaska.
“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,” park ranger Peter McBride stated in a press release.
The Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center will also be open 10 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Visitors can enjoy interactive exhibits and take in the panoramic ocean views, with or without provided binoculars. Oregon State Park rangers will also be on hand to answer questions.
An estimated 18,000 gray whales will pass by our shores from late March through June—many will be accompanied by their calves, which were born during winter in Baja, Mexico’s warm lagoons.
A map of sites with volunteers is available on the Oregon State Parks website.