The Whale Trail 


The Whale Trail is a series of sites to view orcas and other marine mammals from shore.

Our goals are to 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; and promote land-based whale watching. 

From 16 inaugural sites, there are now more than 50. Through our current sites and signs, including 2 on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 30 million people each year.

Mission Statement
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 the Salish Sea and along the Pacific Coast.
Donate Now
The Whale Trail
7119 Woodside Pl SW 
(206) 919-5397 

Donna Sandstrom 



The Whale Trail Programs

Building Awareness – Site and Signs
Each Whale Trail site has a page on our website, and many include interpretive signs. The website is a rich information hub, accessed by thousands of visitors before and during their travels.Signs are customized for each site to show which marine mammals may be seen there, and when. Through QR codes on the signs, visitors are connected to the website. 

Awareness to Action – Whale Trail Programs

We produce innovative and effective programs to engage the public in orca recovery.  We've trained Orca Stewards in West Seattle, led Orca Shuttles on San Juan Island, and played Orca Bingo with hundreds of middle-schoolers aboard the Bainbridge ferry. 

When the whales are near, our shore-based naturalists hand out binoculars, and teach gathering crowds about the animals they are seeing. We turn shore-based encounters into meaningful, educational and often transformative experiences.

In 2014, we produced a 9-city speaking tour featuring author and marine conservationist Erich Hoyt. We traveled  from Saturna BC to Monterey CA, reaching sold-out audiences along the way. Orca Tour 2014 was a  success by every measure - The Whale Trail come to life!

Collaboration in Action - Collective Impact
The Whale Trail is led by a team including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildife, Seattle Aquarium, the Whale Museum, and OCNMS. We work closely with site partners, community members, scientists and NGOs to accomplish our mission and goals.

Many members of the core team met during the historic project to return Springer, an orphaned orca, to her pod. Inspired by that collaborative success, Donna Sandstrom founded The Whale Trail in 2008.

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

Our founding vision was to establish The Whale Trail throughout the southern resident orcas' range.
In 2014, we partnered with National Marine Sanctuaries West Coast Region to add our first sites in California, at the southern end of the orcas' range. This year, we began working with a planning team to extend The Whale Trail around British Columbia. Our vision is quickly coming true!

Our goals for 2015 are to fully establish The Whale Trail in BC, Oregon and California throughout the SRKW range and beyond. We need your help to make it happen!

Your gift of any amount is welcome and comes at a critical time for us  - and the orcas.

Specific ways you can help:

Communication Tools. As we add new sites, the limitations of our 7-year old website have become painfully clear. Your support will help us build a world-class website on a secure, robust, and more flexible platform - better able to deliver rich, engaging content to an exponentially increasing audience. Your gift of $100 will add a page on our new website - a site, a species, or an educational feature.

Partnership-Building. The Whale Trail is, above all, a collaboration. Your donation of $30 or more will help us build and maintain the partnerships that make this project go - the meetings and materials that keep us in synch and on schedule.

Site Amenities. Your gift of $1000 buys a custom shore-based whale-watching kit, including 3 pairs of binoculars. Your donation of $2500 will buy a Whale Trail sign for a site that needs one. Do you want to sponsor a Whale Tail bench, a spotting scope, or a community-based art project? Get in touch with us for details!

By promoting shore-based whale-watching, The Whale Trail is playing a specific and strategic role in SRKW recovery.

Extending the Whale Trail throughout the orcas' range will result in more sightings during the winter, and help close a critical research gap.

The Whale Trail is creating a new focus for eco-tourism, and providing economic benefits to coastal communities.

Together, we are creating a powerful piece of common ground that connects communities not just to the whales but to each other. 

The Whale Trail is an idea whose time has come. Join us!

Our support comes at a critical time for us, and the orcas. We're heartened by the recent births of four new calves in J K and L pods, and we know that there is a long way to go for these pods to be fully recover.

The Whale Trail is a simple, powerful project that is already making a difference - building awareness among a broad and diverse general public about marine mammals and their ecosystem.


Grant History with The Seattle Foundation:

Grants Awarded through The Seattle Foundation Grantmaking Program:

There are no recent grants awarded to this organization.


Similar Organizations

Give broadly to the Environment
If you care about restoring the environmental health of Puget Sound, ensuring sustainability in our region, and broadening the environmental movement, then make a difference by giving to the Grantmaking Program.
Questions or comments about this organization?
Contact us to learn more.