Lincoln City, OR – Winter on the Oregon Coast is not just for storm watchers and holiday shoppers. From December 27 through 31, a good pair of binoculars and an eagle eye may lead to spotting a Grey Whale, while they are heading south to Mexico to give birth to their calves. Approximately 18,000 whales will travel 12,000 miles south and can be spotted off the coastline of Lincoln City.
There are nearly 40 different volunteer staffed locations where you can spot Grey Whales on the Oregon Coast, but none are more comfortable than the 10th floor of the prestigious Inn at Spanish Head. From the top floor, visitors can spot these creatures nearly every hour in late December as they make their journey.
“We always make sure to have hot coffee and treats for our visitors and whale watching volunteers when they arrive”, says Derek Kortlever, Sales Manager for the Inn at Spanish Head. “The volunteers say they get as many as 250 sightings per day!”
And if you don’t spot a whale in winter, you have another opportunity in the spring from March 21 through 28. After giving birth, the mother whales make a slow trip back north to Alaska with their newly born calves and can be seen cavorting just beyond the white water. Only 8 miles south of Lincoln City, Depoe Bay charters whale watching boat tours several times daily and is the headquarters of the Oregon State Parks Whale Watching Center. The center is also home to the Whale Watching Spoken Here program, which offers volunteer training opportunities on whale education.
During the winter and spring months, trained volunteers are posted at prime viewing points to help visitors spot the mighty mammals. Their “Whale Watching Spoken Here” signs identify the volunteers. They will point out special behaviors such as spy hopping, breaching, and spouting, as well as discuss whale feeding, courtship, and migration patterns.
Just a few years ago, the whale population dipped to 1,800 making them “commercially extinct”. Today, under the protection of the Mexican and US governments, the population has grown to more than 20,000 whales! Grey Whales may grow to 45 feet (13.7 meters) in length – longer than a city bus – and weigh more than 45 tons (41,000 kg).
To learn more about the winter and spring whale-watching seasons, contact the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center at 800-551-6949 or visit www.whalespoken.org.
Photo by Morris Grover