Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Finnegan's free fun: whale watching

The spring migration of thousands of gray whales is underway. This miraculous journey begins in Alaskan waters and moves south along California's coastline to birthing and breeding waters in Baja California. Then in spring, the whales—now accompanied by their young calves—reverse course and swim north along the California coast to return. All through March, you might spot the state's official marine mammal— the gray whale—heading north.

These animals are huge (up to 50 long and 45 tons each) but because their babies are with them, they hug the shore for protection from predators on the return trip. And that makes a number of California State Park offer prime viewing locations. And the cost: a nominal park entry fee (which means its practically free).

“Whale watching is an exciting family adventure,” says Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks. “I would suggest a little research on whales along our coast to get the kids primed, and then find a safe spot where crashing waves won’t interrupt your adventure. And, bring the binoculars!” Look for the whales' spouts of vaporized water (up to 12 feet high) as the whales surface every three to five minutes to breathe.

To find any California state park, go to

Some key spots:

Patrick's Point State Park (Palmer's Point and Wedding Rock), Trinidad: (707) 677-3570 MENDOCINO COUNTY Mendocino Headlands State Park: (707) 937-5804; MacKerricher State Park (Laguna Point) on the Mendocino Coast three miles north of Fort Bragg: (707) 964-9112 or (707) 937-5804
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park (Vista Point, Highway 1): (831) 667-2315; Point Lobos State Reserve: (831) 624-4909; Point Sur State Historic Park: (831) 625-4419
Crystal Cove State Park: (949) 494-3539
MontaƱa de Oro State Park: (805) 528-0513 San Simeon State Beach: (805) 927-2035 SANTA BARBARA COUNTY El Capitan State Beach: (805) 585-1850
Silver Strand State Beach: (619) 435-5184

PHOTO: Courtesy California State Parks, 2009

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COPYRIGHT Lora Finnegan 2008-2009

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