This year will mark the 29th annual Whale Watch Weekend and Intertidal Life Festival at Cabrillo National Monument. Whale Watch Weekend on February 20-21 is a chance for Cabrillo National Monument to invite the San Diego community to the park and encourage them to learn about the importance of protecting our oceans.
The two-day festival will feature whale watching at the recently re-designed Whale Watch and Kelp Forrest Overlook and exhibitors from a variety of organizations that support ocean conservation. The festival will include marine awareness, whale watching, and lectures on federal and state agencies that protect our oceans. In addition, this year’s festival will feature tidepool exploration and a presentation on the Marine Protected Areas, Ranger programs on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Kelp Forrest Ecology and an interactive storytelling for children about the creation of the tides.
Each winter, the Pacific Gray Whales pass by the western overlooks of Cabrillo National Monument. After spending the summer feeding in the food-rich waters of the Arctic, the Grays swim south along the coast to the bays of Baja California, where they mate and nurse their young. Along the way, they pass Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument.
Mid-January is the peak of the migration, but the Grays are visible from mid- to late December through March. From the Whale and Kelp Forest Overlook and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse visitors can enjoy the best viewing of these whales in San Diego from land. Descending these slopes of the overlook, sandstone cliffs drop off into intertidal habitat that visitors may visit during the festival. The intertidal zone is where the land and sea merge. Here marine plants and animals are submerged during high tide and exposed to the sun and wind on the rocky reef during low tide.
The whales that migrate past here swim right past the second largest kelp forest in southern California. It is possible to see the whales anytime during daylight hours. Park staff can gladly help visitors spot a whale. Visitors should check at the visitor center for information about ranger talks and whale watching during the festival and throughout the season. Don’t miss the movie about the Pacific Gray Whale that is shown several times a day in the park auditorium.
During the festival bring binoculars if you have them: binoculars make viewing much easier and more enjoyable.
As the park’s namesake, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States. Cabrillo departed from the port of Navidad, Mexico, on June 27, 1542. Three months later he arrived at “a very good enclosed port,” which is known today as San Diego Bay. Historians believe he anchored his flagship, the San Salvador, on Point Loma’s east shore near Cabrillo National Monument. Cabrillo later died during the expedition, but his crew pushed on, possibly as far north as Oregon, before thrashing winter storms forced them to back to Mexico.
Cabrillo National Monument, established in 1913, commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s voyage of discovery. A heroic statue of Cabrillo looks out over the bay that he first sailed into on September 28, 1542. At the Visitor Center, the film “In Search of Cabrillo” and an exhibit hall present Cabrillo’s life and times. Ranger-led programs about Cabrillo are usually available on weekends and on many weekdays during summer months.