Gray Whale Sightings Enrich Visitor Experience On Southwest Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula

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Anticipation is building for the first of the gray whales to pass by the Long Beach Peninsula as they travel south to the warm waters of the Baja Peninsula. To help whale watchers get the most out of a chance to observe the migration, Cape Disappointment State Park is offering sighting tips and more during “Whale Watching Spoken Here” week, Dec. 26 through 30, 2012.

Gray whale, migration, whale watching, Washington Coast, Washington whale watching, Long Beach Peninsula, Cape Disappointment, state park, land-based whale watching, baby whales, whale strandings, oregon coast, north head lighthouse

Sculpture of a gray whale marks the site of a gray whale skeleton on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula.

When you catch a glimpse [of a gray whale], you are instantly inspired by the grace, power and magnificence.

According to interpretive specialists at Cape Disappointment State Park, mid-December marks the start of land-based whale watching on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, a 28-mile long spit of land in the southwestern-most corner of the state.

During the season which peaks in January, North Pacific gray whales can be seen on clear, calm days swimming two to three miles off-shore as they make their way south from the Arctic’s food-rich waters to birth their young in the warm, protected waters of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

Gray whales can also be observed from the shoreline on the Long Beach Peninsula in the spring (late March through June), sometimes travelling closer to shore, as they migrate north with their newborns.

To help visitors make the most of gray whale migration windows, Cape Disappointment State Park will participate in the Whale Watching Spoken Here program, Dec. 26 through 30, 2012 and March 23 through 30, 2013. During those dates, volunteers and staff will be at hand in the viewing room at the park’s Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center to help visitors spot the whales and learn more about them.

“Visitors should know this is not a cetacean petting zoo!” emphasized Aaron Webster, Interpretive Specialist, Cape Disappointment State Park. “Even from the park’s several great vantage points, most whales are about three miles off shore, and sightings are sporadic. On one day we’ll have no sightings, on the next there may be a dozen.”

Webster offers these tips for whale watching success at Cape Disappointment State Park:
-Seek elevation to expand your view. North Head Lighthouse and nearby Bell’s View Trail provide two good outdoor locations, while the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center offers panoramic windows and protection from the elements.
-Avoid days with high winds, high surf and whitecaps. These conditions make spotting whales nearly impossible.
-Look for the white puff of a spout (whale’s exhale) and then use a spotting scope or binoculars to get a better view of the whale’s back, spout and maybe flukes as the whale dives.
-Morning viewing is best, as afternoon light on sunny days can create harsh glare.

Two locations in the beachside town of Long Beach also provide good platforms for spotting whales. Those less keen on braving the elements can enjoy the fourth-story view from Pickled Fish restaurant atop the Adrift Hotel. Others can keep a lookout from a meandering boardwalk, which stretches for half a mile over the dunes from Sid Snyder Drive to Bolstad Avenue. For those interested in the structure of a whale, the skeletal remains of a gray whale anchor the south end of the boardwalk.

“While spotting a whale takes a bit of practice, it’s so worth it,” remarked Andi Day, executive director, Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau. “When you catch a glimpse, you are instantly inspired by the grace, power and magnificence of these great whales.”

Cape Disappointment State Park
One of Washington’s most popular state parks, Cape Disappointment State Park encompasses the southwest tip of the Long Beach Peninsula. The ADA-accessible park boasts two historic lighthouses, pristine beaches, old-growth forests, interpretative and hiking trails, yurts and camping spots, an outdoor amphitheater, and a world-class interpretive center. A Discover Pass is required for entrance to all state parks, and a nominal admission fee is charged for the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

About Southwest Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula
With its mix of sensational restaurants, local seafood, ocean-view lodging, colorful festivals, unique museums and attractions, landmark lighthouses, fine art galleries, easily accessible trails, birding spots, state and national parks, and, above all, its long, wide, windswept beach, the Long Beach Peninsula continues to be one of the Northwest’s most enjoyable and refreshing coastal destinations.

Located 2.5 hours from Portland and 3.5 from Seattle, the Peninsula is a longtime favorite for those seeking easily accessible outdoors, great food and affordable creature comforts. For more information on the Long Beach Peninsula, please access or call the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau at 800.451.2542.

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Carol Zahorsky

Andi Day
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