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Exploring Depoe Bay

The town of Depoe Bay doesn’t attract visitors because it has a long, beautiful beach. The coastline hereabouts is rocky and unwalkable. Aside from whale-watching and standing on the highway bridge to observe the boat traffic passing in and out of the world’s smallest harbor, the most popular activity here, especially when the seas are high, is watching the spouting horns. Similar to blowholes, spouting horns can be seen all along the coast, but nowhere are they more spectacular than along the coastline at Depoe Bay, right across from the main tourist strip on U.S. 101. These geyserlike plumes occur in places where water is forced through narrow channels in basalt rock. As the channels become more restricted, the water shoots skyward under great pressure and can spray 60 feet into the air. If the surf is really up, the water can spray a long distance, and more than a few unwary visitors have been doused by a spouting horn.

Whale-Watching  OUTDOOR RECREATION/WILDLIFE TOURGray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) are migratory mammals that make an annual journey from the Bering Sea to their birthing grounds in Baja California and back again. But there’s a resident pod of grey whales that makes its home in the waters of Depoe Bay for 10 months of the year. Small wonder that whale-watching is the top attraction in Depoe Bay. Visitors come from around the world to catch a glimpse of these behemoths of the sea. You can whale-watch from many shore observation spots or take one of the whale-watching charters out for a closer look. It’s a thrilling and unforgettable sight when you see breeching whales in their natural habitat. Whale-watching trips aboard comfortable cruisers or speedy Zodiacs depart throughout the day from Depoe Bay. Bring your sea legs and your binoculars. Tradewind Charters, with a kiosk right on Highway 101 in “downtown” Depoe Bay (www.tradewindscharters.com; tel. 800/445-8730 or 541/765-2345), offers 1- or 2-hour whale-watching excursions; prices are $18 to $35 adults, $16 to $30 seniors, $9 to $15 ages 5 to 12.

To learn more about gray whales, stop in at Depoe Bay’s Whale Watching Center, 119 U.S. 101 (www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks; tel. 541/765-3304), perched on the cliff above the entrance to the harbor. Rangers and volunteers are on hand to point out gray whales if they are visible, and there are interesting displays about Eschrichtius robustus. Memorial Day to Labor Day, the center is open daily from 9am to 5pm; other months open Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm and Sunday from noon to 4pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.