Whale in the ocean
The spring whale migration kicks off in late March and will last into June. (Photo by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department)

The spring whale migration kicks off in late March and will last into June, but the whale-watching experience will look different this year due to the pandemic.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department cancelled its 2021 spring Whale Watch Week program, traditionally held during spring break, meaning volunteers won’t be stationed at whale-watching sites. In addition, the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay is closed. However, visitors may enjoy this spring tradition on their own, while following statewide COVID-19 guidelines for safe travel and physical distancing.  

“We urge visitors to explore parks close to their homes and to respect the communities they visit,” OPRD director Lisa Sumption said. “Please, wear face coverings and give plenty of space to other visitors. If a park is crowded, consider visiting another whale watching site or returning later.”

Some 25,000 gray whales will pass by Oregon’s shores from late March to June on their way to cool Alaskan waters. Many will be accompanied by their calves, born during the winter in the warm lagoons off the coast of Baja, Mexico.

Most viewing sites managed by OPRD are open, with reduced services in some locations due to limited resources. A map of whale watching sites is available online on the official whale watching webpage on the Oregon State Parks website.

Before visiting a state park, people are urged to check the Oregon State Parks status map that shows open and closed parks, as well as parks with reduced services. More information about OPRD’s response to COVID-19 is on the official FAQ page on the Oregon State Parks website.