The Whale Trail is a series of sites around the Northwest where the public may view orcas, other whales and marine mammals from shore.
Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment by establishing a network of viewing sites along the whales’ trails through Puget Sound and the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest.
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.
The Whale Trail is being developed by a core team of partners including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), People For Puget Sound, 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.
There are 32 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 eventually, we hope, 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 22 million people each year.
Awareness to Action
The Whale Trail make the critical connection between Sound 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.
We hope that The Whale Trail will remind future generations of a moment in history when the orcas almost went extinct, but didn’t; and when Puget Sound almost crashed, but didn’t; because we rose to this challenge together, with the urgency, skill, and resources it required.