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Oregon Coast Whale Watching
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DEPOE BAY -- Carson Mooney is wide-eyed with excitement.


Fog has reduced visibility on the oceanfront, but the 10-year-old from Tri Cities, Washington, isn’t letting that stop him from searching for whales.


More whales.


He saw two big grays on a sunny Saturday during a whale watching tour with the appropriately named “Sunrise” charter.


“Cool,” Carson says, when asked about the one-hour tour.


“We were amazed at how big the swells were,” says his dad, Steve Horst. “It looked more calm when we set out.”


So Carson isn’t letting rainy weather deter him.



“Look! look!” Carson cries to his family, scattered inside the Whale Watching Center at the center of town.


“Dad, look! Free binoculars! Anybody can use them!” Carson says.


He scans the oceanfront with determination.


Since the fog has reduced visibility to less than a mile, and the migrating whales are out about two to three miles, Horst has something else to show his son.


It’s a black camera filming the oceanfront, manned by state parks volunteer Steve Madsen.


Madsen’s screen shows video of whales that have passed by in the last few days, their wide backs glistening in the waves.


Live shots on the monitor show only waves.


“They’re out there,” Madsen assures the Horst-Mooney family. “This is the peak of the migration.  There are about 30 whales an hour going by.”


Carson is suitably impressed.  Asked how he would rate whale watching on the family’s four-day spring break in Oregon, he replied, “the best!”


The annual migration of gray whales runs from March to June, when thousands of whales move from their calving grounds in Baja, Mexico, to the nutrient-rich Bering Sea off Alaska.


“On a nice, clear day we can track them clear across the horizon,” says Madsen, who lives nearby and emphasizes that he walks Depoe-area beaches every morning.


In the two years that he’s been working for the state’s parks and recreation department, Madsen has seen many whales.


A highlight this month was seeing 24 individual gray whales migrating north in one day.  Madsen still sounds excited, recalling how he saw repeated spouts.


“You need two things to see whales on the Oregon coast,” he says. “Persistence and luck.”


The Whale Watching Center is on the west side of Highway 101, and admission is free.


It’s open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wed. to Sun.


More info: (541) 765-3304 or