gray whale

A gray whale breaching in the Pacific Ocean.

Winter whale watching and traditional New Year’s Day hikes in Oregon will unfold under slightly different circumstances this year at state parks.

Normally, volunteers would be stationed at whale watching sites like Ecola Point above Cannon Beach to help visitors spot migrating gray whales and learn more about the species. Rangers and volunteers would lead hikes to explore state parks on Friday.

But with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, state officials are encouraging people to visit whale watching sites and hike in parks on their own.

Parking fees at the 25 state parks that usually require a parking permit will be waived on Friday.

“We encourage visitors to explore parks close to their homes, wear face coverings and practice recommended social distancing,” Lisa Sumption, the director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said in a statement. “If a park is crowded, please consider visiting another nearby park.”

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