Oregon’s Winter Whale Watch Week is Here: Staying Safe on The Beach
Around 14,500 gray whales were seen off the Oregon coast last year during Whale Watch Week, and it’s 2023’s turn to look out for the thousands of gray whales that are migrating south from Alaska to reach the warmer waters off Baja in Mexico, where they calve every year at around this time. Winter Whale Watch week runs from Dec. 27 to 31 at 15 different sites along the coast and is hosted by Oregon Parks and Recreation.
Stephanie Knowlton of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has issued some advice. Because the whales usually swim quite far from shore, it’s a good idea to look out for the spout of water that whales typically blow into the air. And it’s useful to have volunteers who know what to look for to help spot the whales.
Preparing ahead helps beachcombers make the most out of the experience. This means whale watchers should bring binoculars if they have, and dress for the weather- which can sometimes turn wet, windy, and cold. Keeping an eye out for the surf is one of the beach safety guidelines, and Oregon Parks encourages whale watchers to respect the wild, powerful ocean.
Acquaint yourself with the shoreline, beach, and sea to make the most of the experience while staying safe. Get to know and understand beach safety guidelines- calamitous water accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, without warning and a lack of safety knowledge is often the cause of these accidents. Also, follow these beach safety tips:
Learn to Swim
Never go swimming alone, and make sure that children are closely supervised- even those who have learned to swim.
Understand The Tides
As tides go out, rocks are exposed. Avoid strolling out to fascinating rocks- as the tide comes back in, these rocks will become isolated from the shore.
Be safe by knowing when the tide will roll back in by studying the tide tables available at information centers, state park offices, and many shops and motels. These timetables can also be found at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Staying off small enclosed beaches and rocks is advisable.
Always Presume That High Waves Can Get To You
Waves can sweep over jetties, headlands, and rocks knocking you over and taking you out to sea. To be prepared for a tsunami, find local resources such as evacuation routes and maps. They could save your life if a tsunami were to hit the Oregon coastline.
Be safe by avoiding exposed rocks, headlands, and jetties while there are strong wave action periods, and assume that nothing is high enough.
Look Out For Logs
Even the biggest logs can be picked up by the sea with ease and dumped on an unsuspecting swimmer. Remember that size can be misleading- even tiny logs that are waterlogged could be very heavy.
Be safe by staying off a wet log in the sea or even just on wet sand.
Take Note Of Deep Water & Strong Currents
The risk of being pulled into the undertow increases as the water gets deeper. The currents can sweep unwary swimmers and waders off their feet and take them out to sea in an instant.
Be safe by sticking to shallow water.
Beware Of Sneaker Waves
Crashing high on the beach with lethal force, sneaker waves appear without warning and are impossible to predict.
Be safe by not ever turning your back on the sea.
Take Precautions Around Coastal Jetties
With hidden dangers, jetties experience waves that can shift even large boulders from the shore, but below the surface currents churn up smaller stones and sand from inside the jetty, creating unseen danger. Big waves- even in calm weather, can knock a person over, and strong currents nearby could prevent a safe return to shore. Sinkholes and open crevasses in boulders create stepping hazards, while sea spray causes slippery surfaces.
Be safe by never walking on jetties on the coastline.
Stay Alert On High, Steep Cliffs
Cliff edges are often unstable and drenched trails or soft sand and earth results in unstable footing. Even the rocks could be slippery even in dry weather.
Be safe by wearing appropriate footwear, and stay on the marked trail, behind guard fences and railings, and never getting too close to the edge.
Guard Against Falling Rocks
The base of an oceanside cliff- especially those with an overhang, can be dangerous. High waves and winter storms erode the shoreline over time, increasing the risk of collapsing terrain and landslides.
Be safe by being wary of falling rocks. Don’t climb on eroding hillsides or bluffs, or walk along the base of cliffs unless you really have to.
Read Up On Beach Safety Resources
Additional information is available from:
- Just Add Water Safety (J.A.W.S.)
- Oregon State Parks
Watching whales is an adventure that not everyone gets the chance to experience. Share your photos and videos from Winter Whale Watch in Oregon on social media at #OregonStateParks and #ORWhaleWatch23.