Twice a year, every year, hundreds of people flood the west and east coast to see the migration of whales. Once on their migration from the Arctic to their wintering and breeding grounds in Southern California and Mexico and second on their return trip from the southern climes.
Why are we so fascinated by the migration of these ginormous beings? Maybe it’s the fact that we feel so small next to them or that for most of us, whales aren’t animals that we get the chance to see every day. Whether you’re spotting one from the deck of a whale-watching cruise or from the shores of a national park, whales are some of nature’s most beautiful creatures.
If you’ve never watched the whales go by, now is your time to see them. Early January is the peak of the migration, but whales can be spotted mid-December through early February. The heights around the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and North Head Lighthouse offer the best viewing. You’ll want to make sure you have your binoculars on hand in case they aren’t too close to shore.
The northward migrations begin mid-March. The immature whales, adult males, and females without calves are the first to head north, passing the Peninsula in March and April. Later, females with calves come along at a slightly slower rate, passing the Washington coast in May.
First things first, you have to choose a location for your whale watching. A spot like North Head is a great viewing place because the land juts into the ocean and high elevation. Another great place is both The North Head Lighthouse and Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. If you choose either of these places to view the whales, we recommend making a day out of it and checking out both of these places and Cape Disappointment State Park.
The next thing is planning what time you’re going to go. It is recommended that you go in the early hours of the morning since ocean conditions will be calmer. Regardless of the time, you will want to make sure the weather is calm and there are no whitecaps that you can see.
Finally, you should probably know what exactly you’re looking for. Since whales do travel a great deal away from the shore, keep your eye out in the distance. Scanning the horizon and looking for the blow of a whale will give you the tell-tale sign that there are whales in that direction.
The blow is when a whale exhales and water shoots up into the air up to 12 feet. Yes, we said 12 feet – talk about a lot of water.