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 Whale Watching on the Oregon Coast

 --by Shannon Hurn

The Oregon coast provides ample opportunity to view members of the order Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) at any one of the twenty-nine whale viewing parks in the state.  Gray whales are the most commonly viewed species from the parks.  In fact, Oregon Parks and Recreation hosts two Whale Watching weeks each year during the Gray whale migration seasons.  During Whale Watching week, volunteers from the Parks and Recreation department work at the viewing parks to assist visitors in spotting migrating whales and provide helpful information on whale life history.  For a complete list of the twenty-nine whale viewing parks in Oregon, click here.

Below is a synopsis of Cetaceans commonly viewed in Oregon and the peak times to view them.

Cetaceans Commonly Seen off the Coast of Oregon

Name: Scientific name: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Gray whale Eschrichtius robustus x x X X x R R R R x X X
Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae       x x x X X X X x x
Killer whale/Orca Orcinus orca       x x x x x        
Harbor porpoise Phocoena phocoena x x x x x x x x x x x x

KEY: x = some probability, X = higher probability, R = possible chance to view the resident population, low probability

There are many more Cetaceans that have been viewed in Oregon coastal waters, but sightings of most of them are very rare.  For a complete list of other Cetaceans of Oregon, click here.

For the best chance to view Cetaceans, visit during a Whale Watching week or on your own during a peak month.  Make sure to bring warm clothes and binoculars, and plan to spend a considerable amount of time outdoors at a viewing station.  Best viewing times are on calm days with little or no wind.  Use your eyes to look for blows - tuffs of air that the Cetacean exhales when surfacing to breathe.  Once a blow is spotted, use your binoculars to zero in on the location, and watch for more blows.  You will often see the body of a Cetacean as he/she surfaces to breathe.  If you are very fortunate, you might also see a group of Cetaceans playing, feeding, or resting.  This may allow you to see more of their bodies, a better opportunity to view calves, and also observe them for longer periods of time.  For more tips on viewing Cetaceans in Oregon, check out these sites:

For more information on Cetaceans, you can visit the following sites:


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