From the gray whales that swim thousands of miles from Alaska to Baja California (and back!) to the bald eagles that overwinter in Arizona, nature is truly a sight to behold in the West. Seek out these seven wildlife migrations for an experience you aren’t soon to forget.
Gray Whales Along the California and Oregon Coasts
Witness one of the longest annual mammal migrations on the planet: Tens of thousands of eastern North Pacific gray whales, some reaching up to 50-feet-long and weighing as much as 45 tons, travel 10,000 miles round-trip from Alaska to Baja California each winter to mate and give birth. Recognizable by their mottled gray coloring, these enormous baleen (filter-feeding) whales hug the coastline of both Oregon and California on their journey, which begins in October and ends in March. They travel at an average of about five miles an hour and feed on plankton and small crustaceans found in shallow waters, which makes them relatively easy to spot. At Oregon’s Depoe Bay, thriving, food-filled kelp forests attract the hungry travelers (and the resident gray whales, a subset of the larger Pacific gray whale population, that often set up shop in June) and draw them closer to shore. In California’s Mendocino County, the Point Arena Light Station offers prime viewing from the top of the lighthouse tower (currently closed to the public) and the rugged peninsula surrounding it in late November through April. Further down the coast, Monterey County’s rich waters delight divers and whale watchers at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, where you can often catch grey whales spouting from their duel blowholes December through May.