18 May Oregon and Washington
Washington and Oregon have got monoliths, volcanoes, giant redwoods and the clearest lake of the country. And gray whales! And orcas!
At the rough coast of Oregon, you can watch gray whales all year long – also from the mainland. In Washington, summer-time is orca-time.
In Washington, whale watching boils down to the waters around Vancouver Island: Haro Strait and Juan de Fuca Strait in Puget Sound, both best reached from Friday Harbour on San Juan Island. A lot of tour operators offer both classic and kayak tours there. Tours are also launched at Port Townsend (eastern entrance to the Puget Sound), Anacortes on Fidalgo Island, Port Angeles at the south coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Bellingham at Bellingham Bay. Apart from orcas, you can also see gray whales, humpbacks and minke whales in summer and also during the rest of the year.
Main season starts in March and ends in October, tours for gray whales take place in March and April. The chances of meeting whales are very high in the whole region, as there are a lot of resident orcas around San Juan Island, who live here all year long. Both in Haro Strait and Juan de Fuca Strait, orcas can also be watched from the mainland. The most visited place for mainland whale watching is Lime Kiln Point on the western side of San Juan Island. Also, Whidbey Island, Port Townsend and Cape Flattery are places, where orcas can be seen from the land.
A bit further south you can watch gray whales on their way north from Westport in March, April and May. Tours from here are a lot cheaper than from the hotspots of Haro Strait. Usually, you only get to see gray whales from here, though. Especially in December and March, you can also watch the migrating gray whales from North Head Lighthouse at the border to Oregon.
»Mainland whale watching is done best at Oregon, there are no better possibilities anywhere else.«
Oregon, located a bit further south, benefits from the annual migration of the gray whales. As not all gray whales travel all the way north but also spend their summers in the waters of Oregon, sometimes joined by humpbacks, whale safaris are done all year long in Oregon’s Depoe Bay and from Newport. The only downtime is November and the beginning of December.
To this, there are a lot of possibilities to watch whales from the mainland, as gray whales usually stay close to the coast on their way north.
The range of mainland whale watching possibilities Oregon offers is unrivalled in the world. There are 26 towns and hiking trails (“Whale Trails”) along the coast, which are explicitly labeled as whale watching spots. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has started the “Whale Watching Spoken Here” program with volunteers manning the 26 stations along the coast for two weeks in order to give the visitors as much information about the whales as possible. There is also a Whale Watching Centre in Depoe Bay.
Thanks to those measures, there are more visitors watching whales from the mainland than by boat in Oregon now.
Along the raw and rocky coast of Washington, there are volcanoes, sequoias, dense rainforest and one of the clearest lakes of the world. The national parks are home to bears, coyotes, eagles and cougars.
The coast of Washington and Oregon is characterized by dense conniver forests, temperate rainforests and steep, rocky cliffs. Some areas are among the ones with the most rain in the whole USA. Further inside the country, there are drier and waste areas, too.
The mighty Cascade Range stretches out over 1.300 kilometers from British Columbia to California. It’s part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a chain of volcanoes, surrounding the Pacific on three sides. The volcanoes of that ring are said to have high explosive power.
The highest mountain is Mount Rainier in Washington, a sleeping volcano near Seattle with a height of 4.392 meters. 2.549 meters high Mount St. Helens only erupted in 1980 and the devastated landscape has been declared a National Monument in 1982. A bit further south, is Mount Hood with 3.425 meters – the highest mountain of Oregon. The resting volcano with its many glaciers is one of the most popular coastal mountains for hikers. It’s surrounded by Mount Hood National Forest, a very popular hiking area, only 30 kilometers from Portland.
The Cascade Range is home to various parks: North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens Vulcanic Monument and Crater Lake National Park – all of them great places for hiking. The most visited one is Mount Rainier National Park in Washington with about two million guests per year. There are almost 500 kilometers of hiking trails in the park, leading you past waterfalls, mountain lakes, narrow gorges and up to thousand year old sequoia trees.
»Crater Lake is one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the world. There are recordings of 40 meters of depth of visibility – record!«
Crater Lake in Oregon is located in the crater of Lake Mazama and 594 meters deep, making it the deepest lake of the USA. The Rim Dive leads around the extremely blue water. In the middle is Wizard Island, a giant volcanic cone, which can be accessed by boat. There are no waters going in or out of Crater Lake, making it one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the world. There are recordings of 40 meters of depth of visibility, one of the highest values ever recorded.
The national parks of Washington and Oregon are home to black bears, deer, wapitis, lynx, wolves, coyotes, eagles and even (an estimated 5.000) cougars in the more remote areas. If you plan on going hiking there, get informed about how to react in case of an encounter.
Thick forests and the rough and ragged coasts full of monoliths make the Washington and Oregon coast unique. The most well-known and most significant is Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, a 72 meter slab of stone in Oregon in the shape of a haystack. It’s one of the biggest coastal monoliths on Earth.