• Spot a Whale Breaching, Spouting or ''Spy Hopping'' at the Mendocino Coast Whale Festival in Fort Bragg

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    February 26, 2018

    The 36th Annual Whale Festival on March 17 and 18 in Fort Bragg, California is an honored tradition on the Mendocino Coast. The city of Fort Bragg, with its robust history of logging and fishing, a working harbor, and a spectacular rugged coastline, is one of the best places to enjoy the festivities and spot gray whales as they travel from Baja to the Bering Sea. With as many as 20,000 of the massive mammals migrating each year, chances of spotting them breaching, spouting, or “spy-hopping” (poking their heads above water to look around), are excellent. Viewpoints abound from miles of beaches, including the pristine Coastal Trail in Fort Bragg. This stretch of coastline, previously owned by a lumber company, had not been accessible to the public for more than 100 years. 

    On Saturday, March 17, a popular chowder contest at Masonic Hall features local restaurants who compete for best chowder of the year, accompanied by award-winning craft beers for sale by local North Coast Brewing Company. Following chowder and beer, visitors can sample award winning Mendocino County wines and hors d’oeuvres at local shops in town. Visit MendoWhale.com for details.

    Other events lined up in Fort Bragg during the weekend include a Whale Walk and Run at 8:00 a.m. Saturday. The Fort Bragg Beer Fest will feature regional microbreweries and their best pilsners, stouts, and ales at historic Eagle's Hall.

    “Every year the Whale Festival gets more popular”, says Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce CEO Sharon Davis, "it’s a great time to visit the coast, experience the natural world, see the whales, and enjoy fabulous food, libations, and entertainment in our friendly and welcoming community”. 

    The Noyo Center for Marine Science has a variety of fun and educational family activities scheduled in Fort Bragg on Saturday, March 17, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. “The Whale Trail” is an intriguing path that includes The Crow’s Nest Interpretive Center on the South Coastal Trail, where visitors can view a variety of exhibits, including a 73-foot Blue Whale bones display. Docents will be on hand to answer questions.

    A Marine Technology Demonstration at the Noyo Center offices offers the opportunity to see a 3-D scanner/printer, an underwater 360-degree camera, or try on virtual reality googles for a glimpse into a different world. An “Oceans of Plastic” art exhibit at Visit Mendocino on Franklin Street spotlights the issue of plastics in the oceans and how whale and other marine mammals are affected. A 26-foot orca skeleton exhibit will be on display at the CV Starr Community Center, where a docent will relate the story of the life of this beautiful creature and how the bones were rescued from the beach and assembled into the skeleton on display. 

    An ideal location for watching the whale migration is MacKerricher State Park, where sightings of whale tails or whales breaching are common phenomena. A wheelchair accessible boardwalk allows access to the headlands at Laguna Point with stunning views of the coastline. Trained docents lead public whale walks on Saturday and Sunday, March 17 and 18 starting at 11:00 a.m. Binoculars and a spotting scope will be provided to help visitors study whales and other fascinating marine and bird wildlife. On Saturday, March 17, a family educational event from noon to 3:00 p.m. will feature arts, crafts, games, and the opportunity to learn about gray whales at interactive learning stations. A free hot dog lunch is included. On Sunday, families are invited help paint and preserve a life sized whale skeleton at the MacKerricher Visitor Center from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Every year a fresh coat of paint is applied to the gray whale skeleton to help protect it from the elements. Participants are advised to bring a paint brush and wear painting clothes. For additional information call (707) 961-0471.

    The Point Cabrillo Light Station is another great spot for sighting whales and experiencing local history. During the weekend, docents will enlighten visitors about whales, the shipwreck of The Frolic, and conduct lens tours. In Noyo Harbor whale watching boats will be conducting tours for a close up view of the mammals and other sea life. 

    Visitors to the coast earlier in the month can enjoy the Mendocino Whale Festival on March 3 and 4 and the Little River Whale Festival on March 10 and 11. On Sunday, March 4 at 2:00 p.m., the Noyo Center for Marine Science, the Mendocino County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and Working Films will present Shore Stories, six short films followed by a discussion of the impact of offshore drilling on the California coast at North Coast Brewing Company on Main Street in Fort Bragg.

    Information and updates for all three Whale Festival weekends is available at Mendowhale.com and on the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce MendoWhale Facebook page.

    Sharon Davis, CEO
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