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Marine mammals likely to pass Oregon shores Dec. 27-31; Oregon Parks & Recreation provides volunteers to help out

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON STATE PARKS - Migrating gray whales pass by the Oregon Coast in the next week, and people gather at Cape Disappointment and elsewhere to watch them. It's estimated that about 30 whales pass by the coast per hourGray whales swimming in the waters of the Oregon Coast attract people from around the world.

If only the whales knew, maybe they would breach more for photos?

As it is, whales oblige by surfacing throughout Whale Watching Week, Dec. 27 to 31. An estimated 25,000 gray whales are expected to migrate south, from cold Alaska waters to warm Baja Mexico lagoons, and to pass by the Oregon Coast for people to see.

There are 24 spots to watch from, staffed by volunteers, along the Oregon Coast during Whale Watching Week, as part of the Whale Watching Spoken Here program. The headquarters is at the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center, 119 N. Coast Highway, in Depoe Bay.

Last year, volunteers spoke with an estimated 52,000 people about whales.

In the spring, whales move north toward Alaska. The marine mammals feed along the coast from June to mid-November; it isn't many whales, but they do pop up here and there.

Post-Christmas is the best time to watch whales on the coast. Roughly 30 whales pass by per hour.

"That's one of the neat things about being in the business.," said Peter McBride, a seasonal park ranger with Oregon Parks & Recreation. "You see people enjoy it for the first time, and sometimes it's their hobby to whale watch. ... I've been doing it quite a long time, most of my adult life. It's just amazing, being able to see them come in close, truly amazing how they can be right off the rocks. They're fun to watch."

Trained volunteers from the Whale Watching Spoken Here program will be stationed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily at the sites, ready to help visitors spot whales and answer questions about the animals.

A map of volunteer-staffed sites is available on the official event page.

The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Visitors to the center can enjoy interactive whale exhibits and take in the panoramic ocean views. Binoculars are provided. Park rangers also will be on hand to answer questions about the whales.

A live stream of whale activity in Depoe Bay returns, and you can watch it on the Oregon State Parks' YouTube channel during the week.

"Whales are a special part of the Oregon Coast," said Luke Parsons, an Oregon Parks & Recreation seasonal ranger. "I hope visitors walk away feeling a little more connected to these animals, along with a greater appreciation of our oceans."

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