Visitors encouraged to explore on their own and stay local

SALEM, Oregon – This year’s winter whale watching and the 2021 First Day Hikes will go on, but volunteers won’t be stationed at whale watching sites and hikes won’t be led by rangers or volunteers.

“Oregonians love these traditions, but with the pandemic continuing to affect our communities we encourage everyone to visit the whale watching sites and hike or explore a state park Jan. 1 on their own,” said Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The parking fee for the 25 parks that normally require a parking permit will be waived for First Day Hikes Jan. 1, 2021. Some parks may display posters that include recommended hikes and ranger favorites.

“We encourage visitors to explore parks close to their homes, wear face coverings and practice recommended social distancing,” Sumption added. “If a park is crowded, please consider visiting another nearby park.”

Although trained volunteers and staff will not be available this winter at whale watching sites, most viewing sites managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department remain open to visitors, but they should expect reduced services in some locations. The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay is closed, but the viewing deck on the exterior of the building is open.

Before your visit a state park, take a look at the Oregon State Parks status map that shows open and closed parks, as well as parks with reduced services. A new COVID-19 resource,, is also available. The online mapping tool provides information about most of Oregon’s publicly accessible recreation areas including city, county, state, and federal lands. This web resource displays nearby recreation opportunities based on a user’s location and shows detailed information for each site, such as; available amenities, the potential for encountering crowds and an estimate of site specific COVID-19 prevalence.