Whales Are Swarming Off of San Francisco – Here’s Where to See Them

By John Metcalfe

From The Mercury News

San Jose–As we speak there’s a spouting, breaching, vocalizing superhighway of whales off the California coast. Epicureans might be disappointed it’s led to a delay in the crab season, as the roving creatures can get tangled up in trap lines. But on the bright side, it’s created fantastic opportunities for whale watching, with encounters visible from the shore if you know where to look.

“It’s crazy – there’s plenty of activity. I was just in Tiburon and a humpback whale came right into Raccoon Strait (inside the Bay), a couple hundred feet away,” says Bill Keener, a cetacean research biologist at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

Abnormally cold waters have led to an abundance of krill and anchovies (so much so that fish have rained from the sky). Following the food and their massive appetites are humpback whales, pushing off the coast and sometimes through the Golden Gate. In fact, the Golden Gate Bridge right now is a decent place for whale-watching; if it doesn’t pan out, you’re at least likely to see some pinnipeds.

For folks who want to head out to observe the whales, here are some of Keener’s favorite spots. To maximize your chances, “binoculars are a must,” says Keener. Also, try to head out at high tide or when the tides are strongly incoming; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) predicts those.

“I think they use the flooding tide or incoming tide to ride in toward the coast farther and often use outgoing tides on the way out,” says Keener.

Finally, when you spot a whale don’t forget to report it to the Marine Mammal Center for its research.


“I can tell you that recently the Pacifica (Municipal) Pier has been good,” says Keener.

The pier is open daily from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Find more information at www.cityofpacifica.org/?navid=346.

Fort Funston

This park, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, offers great views. Head for “a cliff where the hang-glider port is, in very southern San Francisco,” says Keener.

Open daily. Find park details at www.nps.gov/goga.

Lands End

Lands End, which is also part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is “a very good spot,” Keener says. “It looks out onto the Golden Gate area.”

Open daily. Find details at www.nps.gov/goga.

Marin Headlands

Point Bonita is another Keener favorite for whale watching. This National Park land is open daily. The Point Bonita lighthouse is open from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Friday-Monday, but the best vantage points are from the nearby trails; www.nps.gov/goga/pobo.htm.

Point Reyes

“Point Reyes is always good because it’s so far out in the ocean, you can get humpback whales,” Keener says. “From January to May, you get gray whales, as well.”

The Point Reyes National Seashore is open daily. Find maps and more information at www.nps.gov/pore.

©#YR@ MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at mercurynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Tribune News Service


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