Engaging in the longest migration of any mammal, the California gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) swims 10,000 miles each year, spending about one third of its life migrating from the cold, nutrient-rich waters of Alaska, to the warm, shallow lagoons of Baja California. Along the way, these incredible animals can often be seen from the shores of Point Reyes. What drives the gray whale to undertake this incredible annual round trip from Alaska to Baja? Food and reproduction.
Jutting 10 miles into the Pacific Ocean, the headlands of the Point Reyes Peninsula offer one of the finest spots to view the gray whale. The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary provides a 20-mile wide “highway” along which the whales cruise; sometimes they travel in the close lane (nearer to shore), and sometimes they travel in the far lane (farther out to sea). The
areas around Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse offer some of the best whale watching spots in the park.
Here at Point Reyes National Seashore, the peak of the southern migration usually occurs in mid-January and that of the northern migration in mid-March. Late April and early May afford the opportunity to see mothers and calves close to shore.
There is a mystery about these beautiful giants. Like humans, they breathe air, have warm blood and give birth to live young. However, their home is in the depths of the dark ocean where so much is concealed from our probing human eyes. As the gray whales migrate along the Pacific Coast, we may have a brief chance to view them before their return to a world that remains mysterious. More information about the gray whale may be found here.
Numerous ranger-led programs are offered during the Whale and Elephant Seal Season.