Gray Whale Gray Whale
Today's News Fall's Journey South Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North



Lucky whalewatchers touch a baby gray whale in Laguna Ojo de Liebre.
Photo Linda Lewis

MAGDALENA BAY, Baja California Mexico
This is the southernmost nursery of Mexico's Baja California coast. The fewest number of gray whale births occur here. At peak, only an estimated 250-500 gray whales are here. This deepwater fishing port is the only area the whales come to which is not part of the biosphere reserve. Magdalena Bay is 180 miles (270 km) south of San Ignacio.

2) LAGUNA SAN IGNACIO, Baja California Mexico
San Ignacio is about 500 miles south of San Diego, and 80 miles (120 km) south of Laguna Ojo de Liebre. This rugged and remote lagoon is 16 miles long and 3 to 4 miles wide. Several hundred whales come and go at any given time during the season. Thanks to Mexico's 2000 veto of a proposal to build a huge saltworks here, this breeding and calving grounds remains untouched by human development. . .and safe for whales who arrive there each winter.


Photo Keith Jones

LAGUNA OJO de LIEBRE, Baja California Mexico
The largest number of gray whales come here. More than half the gray whale births take place in Laguna Ojo de Libre. The lagoon is a half-hour drive from the town of Guerrero Negro. Formerly known as Scammon's Lagoon, this huge watery complex is named for Captain Charles Scammon, who charted many of these areas in the mid-1800s as he hunted gray whales. UNESCO has named Laguna Ojo de Liebre and Laguna San Ignacio a World Heritage Site because they are important breeding and calving areas for the gray whale.

4) LAGUNA GUERRERO NEGRO, Baja California Mexico
Fewer whales come here than to Laguna Ojo de Liebre. Guerrero Negro means "Black Warrior." It is named after a whaling ship that went down in this lagoon in 1858. The world's largest salt production facility is located on this lagoon. The saltworks offices are in the nearby town of Guerrero Negro.

5) Census Site for ACS/LOS ANGELES, California (33.44 N, -118.24W)
The observation post of the American Cetacean Society (ACS) Census is on Palos Verde Peninsula, about 8 miles north of the Los Angeles Harbor in southern California. Each spring, trained volunteers count migrating whales passing on their way back from warm Mexico to the cold Arctic. The main pulse of northbound whales, mostly adults, usually occurs the second and third week of March. A second pulse of

The ACS/LA census site is 125 feet above sea level. See any whales?
Photo Mike Hawe

mother/baby pairs comes about 6 weeks later. Most of the world's gray whales migrate past California, but census observers see only a small portion of them. That's because whales travel farther offshore here. Also, bad weather can prevent observers from spotting the whales. The counts help us find out whether whales' seasonal usage of this nearshore migratory path change over time. What story will the numbers tell about gray whales this year? Track the whales passing the ACS/LA Census with Journey North this spring.

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) near Santa Barbara, CA offers great whale watching. It is home to some 28 species whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures in 1658 square miles of protected ocean habitat. It is home to the new American Cetacean Society-Channel Islands (ACS-CI) census for northbound gray whales, starting January 29, 2005.

Aerial view of Point Piedras Blancas, CA.

Biologist Wayne Perryman (with
National Marine Fisheries Service) counts the mothers and calves that pass Point Piedras Blancas, CA on the new babies' first journey north each spring. The cows and calves are the last whales to leave the warm lagoons and swim north.

8) MONTEREY BAY, California (36.37N, -121.54 W)
The National Marine Mammal Lab (part of NOAA) operates a whale counting station just a few miles south of Monterey. The whales migrate within a few miles of shore near Monterey so they are easily counted when weather is clear.The first northbound whales off the California coast are usually seen in early to mid February.

9) NEWPORT, Oregon (44.64N, -124.00W)
Gray whales can be seen year-round off Oregon, but November and December bring the first whales migrating south. On the journey north in spring, mothers and calves on usually pass Oregon and Washington from late April through June, several weeks after the males and juvenile females without babies.


Photo Dave Rugh, NMML

SEATTLE, Washington
By early April, almost 20 percent of the eastern Pacific population of gray whales are off the coast of Washington. The rest are strung out along the Pacific Coast of North America from Central California to SE Alaska on their journey north.

11) VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC, Canada (49.11N, 125.88 W)
Most of the grays en route to the Bering Sea pass Vancouver Island in March and April. Some of the gray whales stop and stay for the summer! In October or November, these "resident grays" join up with the whales migrating south to Mexico.

Kodiak Island, Alaska

12) KODIAK ISLAND, Alaska (57.43N, -152.34W)
The first returning adult males can arrive in mid to late March. Mother-calf pairs normally return in mid-May and keep coming into July. Kodiak holds a Whale Fest to celebrate the whales' return each spring.

13) NELSON LAGOON, Alaska (55.92N, -161.35 W)
Some gray whales like to spend the summer in bays along
the Alaska Peninsula. Some stay in Nelson Lagoon, feeding in a narrow channel.
There's still a long way to swim before they reach the prime feeding areas in the Chirikof Basin, south of the Bering Strait.

14) UNIMAK PASS, Alaska
Most northbound whales (except for the early ones) migrate through narrow Unimak Pass in June. They are just a few weeks away from their arctic feeding grounds!

The gray whales swim farther north only as the melting ice permits. Because the whales wait until after the ice is gone, people look at changes in the Bering Sea ice maps to help them know when the gray whales will return. Gray whales and the whales with dorsal fins usually don't swim as far as Point Hope, AK until July!

Click here to check out today's ice maps for the Bering and Chukchi Seas. How far can the whales go before ice stops them?

Copyright 2002-2005 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to
our feedback form

Today's News

Fall's Journey South

Report Your Sightings

How to Use Journey North

Search Journey North