Whale watching takes place almost year-round on the Oregon Coast. We watch whales in the winter from mid-December through January. Spring watching begins in March with a peak in numbers the last week and finishes in June with mothers and babies being the last whales traveling north. Summer brings whales that feed along our coast from July to mid-November.
While gray whales are most often spotted, but others seen include Minke, Humpback, Blue, and Sperm whales. Orcas, the largest of the dolphins, are also seen in Oregon.
During the week of December 26 to January 1 whale migration can be viewed from Cape Sebastian just seven miles south of Turtle Rock Resort in Gold Beach during whale watching weeks. Trained volunteers are posted at good sighting spots to help visitors see the whales who will be heading to Mexico to calve. The volunteers return March 23rd to March 30th during Spring migration. The whales return north with the young whales during Spring break.
There are always whales to be seen off the southern Oregon coast but during the two main migrations an average of 29 whales per hour travel the coastline.
Diving and Feeding Habits:
Learning the diving and feeding habits of whales will help you to predict how often and where they may surface. Favorite whale-watching areas near Gold Beach include: Cape Blanco, which is 37 miles north of Gold Beach and which has the oldest lighthouse in Oregon.
Whale Watching Tips:
For year-round whale watchers and those watching for the first time, here are a few whale watching tips.
- Gray whales may possibly be seen year-round on the Oregon, Washington and northern California coastlines.
- Winter migration has the highest numbers (30 per hour) but the whales are usually farther off shore (1-5 miles) because of stormy weather.
- During the spring migration (northbound), the whales are more spread out (6 per hour) but they are closer to shore (1/2 - 3 miles), sometimes stopping to eat.
- Summer feeding whales are very close to shore and eat tiny mysid shrimp that live in the kelp beds. They may feed for hours in the same location.
- Bring your binoculars and dress for the weather. Focus your binoculars and have them ready, but watch with your eyes. When you locate a blow, then bring up your binoculars for a closer look.
- Learn the diving and feeding habits of the whales so you will know how often and where they may surface.
- Morning light (with the sun at your back) is often helpful for spotting blows. Afternoon light reflects off the water and makes viewing difficult.
- Calmer days are better whale watching days, by land, sea or air.
- Any spot with an ocean view may yield whale sightings, but higher locations are generally better than sandy beaches.
Gray Whale Facts:
- Gray Whales are noted for their 12,000-mile annual migration from the Arctic Ocean to Mexico in the winter and their return north in the spring. Whalers nicknamed the Grays "Devil Fish" because they fought so hard to defend their babies. Today, they are best known for being friendly to people.
- In the 1600-1700s Gray Whales in the Atlantic were hunted to extinction. They were hunted almost to extinction two different times in the Pacific Ocean. Starting early in the 1900s, the birthing lagoons were protected by the Mexican government. The United Nations joined in the protection (1935), as did the International Whaling Commission (1946), but the moratorium against whaling wasn't started until 1986. The Grays made a good recovery and were taken off the endangered list in 1994, but are still threatened.
- Gray Whales along the Western Pacific (Russia & Japan) are almost extinct, and Japan is leading other nations to restart commercial whaling.
- The purpose for the migration south is primarily to breed and to give birth to their young in the warm, calm bays of Mexico. Gray Whale babies are 15 feet long and weigh 2,000 at birth. They grow up to 45 feet long and weigh 70,000 pounds.
- They return north and spend the summer feeding in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, seldom eating during migration. About 400 Gray Whales don't continue to Alaska, but stay along the Oregon Coast to feed.
- Grays have baleen plates instead of teeth, with 130-180 plates or pieces along each side of the upper jaw. They take great mouthfuls of food-laden water; then using their tongues, they squeeze out the water and swallow the food that sticks to the baleen.The Oregon coast produces lots of phytoplankton (small marine plants) which are eaten by zooplankton (small marine animals) including bottom dwelling amphipods and mysid shrimp - primary food of the Gray Whales.
- The only natural predators of Gray Whales are Orcas (killer whales) and large sharks. Even though some countries are still whaling, the biggest threat to the whales is pollution in the oceans.
- Born without a blubber layer, babies need warmer waters.
- Mothers bear calves about every 2-3 years.
- Gestation period averages 12 months (Sperm whale 17 months).
- Pregnancy is telescopic - babies double their size the last 2 months.
- Babies average 15 feet long at birth (Blue whale 26 feet).
- Baby whales are born tail first.
- Calves weigh about 2,000 pounds at birth (Blue whale 8,000 pounds).
- Babies must surface and catch their first breath within 15 seconds.
- Within 30 minutes, babies learn to swim.
- Babies nurse frequently on rich milk - 50-60 percent butterfat.
- Babies don't suck, the mother pumps milk into its mouth.
- Calves put on as much as 9 pounds an hour.
- Mothers lose 1/3 of their weight while nursing.
Learning the diving and feeding habits of whales will help you to predict how often and where they may surface.
Turtle Rock RV Resort ® 28788 Hunter Creek Loop, Gold Beach, OR 97444 | Voice: (541) 247.9203 | Fax: (541) 247.8203 | Email: Reservation@TurtleRockRV.com