The Whale Trail is a series of sites where the public may view orcas, other cetaceans and marine mammals from shore.
Our mission isto inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment by establishing a network of viewing sites along the whales’ trails along the Salish Sea and the Pacific Coast.
Our goals are as follows:
- Increase awareness that our marine waters are home to orcas and other species
- Connect visitors to orcas, other marine wildlife and their habitat
- Inspire stewardship and build community
- Promote land-based whale watching.
How to Reach Us
6523 California Ave SW, #410
Seattle WA 98136
Background and Leadership
The Whale Trail is being developed by a core team of partners including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Seattle Aquarium, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the Whale Museum. The Whale Trail was founded and is directed by Donna Sandstrom.
- Many members of the team first met when they worked together on the successful project to return Springer, an orphaned orca, to her pod and native waters near the north end of Vancouver Island.
In 2015, new planning teams were formed in Oregon and British Columbia.
- The British Columbia team is co-led by the BC Cetacean Sighting Network. We are working with many organizations to identify and add Whale Trail sites from Victoria to Prince Rupert.
- The Oregon team is steered by the Marine Reserves Partnership, and includes Oregon State Parks, Department of Fish and Wildife, and many other organizations.
Scope and Range
There are more than 50 sites on the Whale Trail so far, in city, county, and state parks; Tribal lands; and the Washington State Ferries. The project is cross-boundary, extending throughout the orcas’ range.
- Whale Trail sites may include interpretive signs, customized to show which marine mammals are likely to be observed there, and when.
- Each site is also featured on our website, where users may comment, upload photos, and join the Whale Trail community.
- Through the current signs alone, the Whale Trail will reach over 25 million people each year.
Programs and Events
The Whale Trail make the critical connection between stewardship and orca recovery, and what we each – and all – can do to help. In the past few years we have:
- Piloted an Orca Steward program in West Seattle
- Sponsored the first-ever Whale Trail shuttles on San Juan Island
- Created kits for shore-based whale-watching, including binoculars donated by R.E.I.
- Spearheaded Welcome the Orcas events, including OrcaFest at the Alki Bathhouse in West Seattle, and lectures at the Duwamish Longhouse.
- Participated in outreach events like Storming the Sound, Celebrate Elwha!, and OrcaSing, and Welcome the Whales at Langley and La Push.
The Whale Trail is specifically called out in the NOAA’s Killer Whale Recovery Plan. Our shared vision is a fully recovered orca population, thriving in a healthy ecosystem.
In 2014, The Whale Trail expanded beyond the range of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Our mission to inspire appreciation of and stewardship for marine mammals and their environment has expanded to include new regions, species and populations.