Gray whale merrill gosho noaa2 crop hzw73i

Ahoy! A majestic gray whale.

Image: Merrill Gosho

Editor's note: This story originally ran just prior to Oregon Whale Watch Week 2016; we've updated the information for Whale Watch Week 2018, which runs March 24–31.

Starting March 24, you can officially witness the Oregon leg of an annual spring migration that sees more than 20,000 gray whales head north from the calf-birthing waters of Baja, Mexico, to the feeding grounds of Alaska. Welcome to Whale Watch Week 2018.

Though 24 whale-watching centers pepper the West Coast—from Ilwaco, Washington, down to California's Crescent Beach—Oregon’s own Depoe Bay stands out as a particularly excellent whale-watching locale due to its vantage point and deep harbor. As Oregon State Park Ranger Luke Parsons notes, “Depoe Bay is the whale-watching capital of Oregon officially, but it’s really one of the best locations on the northwest coastline for watching whales.”

Gray whale   depoe bay or axwgmh

Wait, that's not a boulder!

Image: Wikicommons

And though the official Spring Watch Week rounds out the end of March, it’s actually only the beginning of whale watching season for Oregonians, especially in Depoe Bay, thanks to pods of resident whales. “Instead of continuing the migration, a selection of ‘regulars’ return to Depoe Bay, having learned to count on a regular supply of food,” says Parsons. “Researchers in the area have names for many of the whales. It’s fun to see, year after year, who returns.”

To increase your odds of witnessing a whale, Parsons suggests watchers rise early. “Oftentimes the wind will be a little more calm and it’s fairly easy to see if you have good weather," he says. "As the sun sets to the west in the afternoon and evening, there tends to be some glare on the water.”

Hoping to spot a spout or discern a dive? We suggest the following four resources below. Whether you’re content to observe from afar, or wish to skim the salty waters with your own hands, we've got something for everyone.

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Here's where you catch one of Carrie Newell's guided whale watching trips.

Image: Wikicommons

BY SEA

Whale Research EcoExcursions
Operating out of the Whale Watching Center, marine biologist Carrie Newell offers thoughtful and scientific observations during her guided whale watching trips. Many Depoe Bay residents consider her to be the local expert. 

Whale Research EcoExcursions
119 SW Highway 101

Depoe Bay, OR 97341
Call 541-912-6734 to make a reservation. (Trip schedules vary based on weather and demand.)  

FROM SHORE 

Oregon Whale Watching Center
This state-run center clings to the sea wall of Depoe Bay. Volunteers help answer questions and identify sightings, and even hand out stickers in the event that a whale is sighted. The center is especially kid-friendly, with all-weather viewing opportunities, displays of whale bones, trivia, videos, and even coloring projects.

Free admission from 10 am–4 pm
119 SW Highway 101
Depoe Bay, OR 97341
541-765-3304 

Boiler bay state scenic viewpoint  oregon  2012  tqtnjj

Boiler Bay Scenic Viewpoint

Image: Wikicommons

Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint
Just south of Lincoln City off Highway 101, the Boiler Bay lookout point offers an unusual cliffside vantage point: watch waves crash the turf to the east of you before they roll back into the white-capped sea. In addition to whale watching, you can also spot lounging sea lions, seabirds galore, and, at low tide, the namesake boiler of the J. Marhoffer vessel that crashed back in 1910.

Boiler Bay State Wayside
Depoe Bay, OR 97341
Oregon State Parks 

BY AIR 

Coos Aviation
Go alone, or gather as many as two other friends, and soar 500 feet above the surface of the sea. For $85, the pilot will fly for half an hour from North Bend to Winchester Bay. If you want more time to spot a barnacled nose, $170 buys you an hour in the air, reaching Florence and back again.

Coos Aviation
2348 Colorado Ave
North Bend, OR
Call 541-756-5181 to make a reservation.

Visit the Oregon State Parks website for more educational sources and tips on whale watching.

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