Depoe Bay is the whale watching capital of Oregon for good reason. Depoe Bay has the whales and it offers ways to watch them, with the micro-harbor giving almost instantaneous access to the Pacific Ocean without the need to cross a bar.

Oregon’s annual spring Whale Watch Week occurs March 21-28 this year at two-dozen designated sites along the Pacific Coast. Whale watchers from Portland heading to the Lincoln City or Newport areas should make their first stop at Depoe Bay to learn about Oregon’s whales at the state park visitor center.

The seaside town is the setting for the Depoe Bay Whale Watch Center, operated by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Excursions from Depoe Bay onto the ocean during the winter and spring migration seasons depend on ocean conditions, as well as the number of brave souls ready to board a boat and go onto the Pacific looking for whales. Summer trips that look for resident whales are more reliable to take place on schedule.

Check at other ports for their whale watching tours. This is what you need to know about Depoe Bay and next week’s whale watching program:

The whale center

The Depoe Bay Whale Watch Center, operated Oregon State Parks staff and trained volunteers, is the first building is on the north side of the Hwy. 101 bridge along the ocean. Its a free, drop-in visitation site, open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (closed Monday and Tuesday in the off-season). Give the ranger a call and he’s likely to report they’ve seen “a ton of whales today.”

Usually it’s the spouts, fins and tails (flukes) in the distance, but sometimes the whales swim right next to shore (look for proof in the photo show above). Most common in Oregon are gray whales, followed by humpbacks. Fin and blue whales were also spotted this winter. The blue whale is the largest animal to ever live on the planet and an Oregon spotting is considered to be rare; 541-765-3304, oregonstateparks.org.

Whale Watch Week

This spring it’s March 21-28 (there is also a winter watch week between Christmas and New Years). Volunteers are on site 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to assist with spotting whales at two-dozen locations (with longer hours at the whale center).

Designated locations, north to south: Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Wash.; Ecola State Park; Neahkahnie Mountain historic marker; Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint; Cape Lookout State Park; Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area; Inn at Spanish Head, Lincoln City; Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint; Depoe Bay Whale Watch Center (10 a.m.-4 p.m.); Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint; Cape Foulweather; Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area; Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area; Don Davis Park, Newport; Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center; Cook’s Chasm turnout; Sea Lion Caves turnout; Umpqua Lighthouse State Park; Shore Acres State Park; Face Rock Scenic Viewpoint; Battle Rock Wayside; Cape Ferrelo; Harris Beach State Park; Ninth Street Beach, Crescent City, Calif.

Depoe Bay whale tour outfitters

Trade Wind Charters: Hwy. 101 downtown, two-hour cruises, primarily Christmas holidays, spring break and during summer; 800-445-8730; tradewindcharters.com.

Dockside Charters: One and 1.5-hour trips March to October; 270 S.E. Coast Guard Dr.; 541-921-1323; whalestaildepoebay.com.

EcoExcursions: Educational whale watching tours by Zodiac; one to two-hour trips when the ocean is calm, May to October; affiliated with Whale, Sea Life and Shark Museum (open weekends), just south of Hwy. 101 bridge; 541-912-6734; oregonwhales.com.

Read last year’s report by Jamie Hale on the best places to see whales:

Here’s a link to the places where the most whales are seen: The top 10 places to go whale watching on the coast this spring

Look more more whale posts this morning:

Maui female humpback whale rolls belly up next to whale watch boat

Orcas size up sea lions for dinner on Victoria whale tour in Strait of Juan de Fuca

— Terry Richard
[email protected]
503-221-8222; @trichardpdx

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