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It's the season when one of the coast's biggest and most popular visitors can be spotted spouting just off the shores of the Northwest coastline as they migrate south for the winter. Annually, from mid-December through mid-January, more than 18,000 Gray Whales migrate between Alaska's Bering Sea to the Baja lagoons of Mexico. During this winter migration whale-watchers can spot these mammoth marine mammals along the coast. Most of the whales swim about five miles from the shore, but there are some that move to within one mile, making them more visible to onlookers.
While the Gray Whale migration can span about a month during the typical peak of the migration, between December 26 through 30, a program called "Whale Watching Spoken Here" assists visitors in spotting the gigantic mammals. This program enlists volunteers at dozens of sites along the coast from Ilwaco, Washington to Crescent City, California to help viewers learn facts and spot whales on their migration south in the winter and also north in the spring.
Gray Whales blow about every 45 seconds as they swim, making it easier for viewers to track their progress through the water. The whales stay under water for three to five minutes at a time when they are feeding, but can stay under for as long as 30 minutes. Some 400 resident whales along the coast remain all year in their favorite food-rich areas, but for most, the bi-annual migration in spring and winter provides the most opportunities for viewer sightings.
For more information about whale watching, volunteer opportunities and whale viewing sites contact the Depoe Bay Whale Center, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Newport, Oregon (541) 765-3407
2013-2014 Whale Watching Weeks:
Winter: December 26-31, 2013
Spring: March 22-29, 2014