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Update Posted March 17

Due to the efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus in Oregon, state parks officials have altered the annual spring whale watching week.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's Chris Havel tells The Chronicle that to reduce exposure, the volunteer crew that normally staffs the watch sites are staying home.

"For regular folk, watch the online guides, grab your own binocs, and head out and enjoy," Havel said, adding:

  • If you're ill, stay home.
  • Maintain a social distance of six feet or more when you go out.
  • Wash regularly with soap and water or sanitizer.
  • Sneeze into a tissue or elbow.

Havel said some parks could experience reduced service, to things like restrooms, with very little notice, so it's important to check oregonstateparks.org before traveling. The Whale Watch Center itself will be closed until April 1.

Previous Chronicle coverage posted on March 14:

As we head toward Spring Break Week, you might be looking for a get-away from Columbia County and that might include a trip to the Oregon Coast.

The Spring Whale Watch Week event returns to the Oregon Coast March 21 - 29 to celebrate the more than 25,000 Gray whales expected to migrate north past Oregon over the next few months.

Trained volunteers will be stationed 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. each day at some of best whale watching sites on the coast, ready to help visitors spot the whales and to answer questions about the animals. A map of the whale watching sites is available online on the official whale watch webpage on the Oregon State Parks website.

Due to lower volunteer turnout this year, not all sites will be staffed by volunteers or park rangers. Check the whale watch webpage for the latest information and updates before you head to the coast.

Whale spotters can also visit the newly-renovated Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay; it will be open 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily. The center features interactive whale exhibits and panoramic ocean views.

A live stream of whale activity in Depoe Bay returns this spring too; watch it on the Oregon State Parks YouTube channel each day during the event, or catch the archived streams throughout the week.

In light of the evolving COVID-19 situation, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is prioritizing visitor health and will not provide shared binoculars at viewing sites. Visitors are encouraged to stay home if they are feeling sick.

More information about the agency’s response to COVID-19 is on the official FAQ page on the Oregon State Parks website.

Gray whales migrate north along the coast annually during spring, following a route to Alaskan waters after spending the winter in the warm lagoons off the coast of Baja, Mexico. Many of the Gray whales will be accompanied by their new calves, born during the winter. The first large groups of whales swim by Oregon mid-March and the migratory stream typically continues into June.

For more information about parks and campgrounds on the coast, visit oregonstateparks.org.

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