Whale Sightings

Each year we report the movements of the whales on Lake Superior. The reports are sightings sent by residents and visitors along the North Shore of Lake Superior. If you spot whale activity, let us know by filling out the form on the right! We accept photos, too!

Click the thumbnail to see a larger image.

I’m sure!

There are no whales in the great lakes. Nice try ppl, and for those who believe…..

Nina Notes: Click the 'see articles' button on the right under CONFUSED?

Book Recommendation

  • Henk V
Nina Notes: Thanks! It's on my 'To Read' list

Whales breaching

My family and I were having some frozen custard on the rooftop deck at Sidney’s in Grand Marais when we caught the tail end of a whale breaching in the bay. Probably the same whale Mary saw while snorkeling! There was a crowd there – it was a warm day!

– Cindy

Nina Notes: Fantastic Cindy! The warmer summer and warmer lake temps have increased whale activity in the Grand Marais area.

Snorkeling Happenstance

While snorkeling off Grand Marais’ harbor, this past June 25th, we were startled to come upon a twain of whale romping in the shallows. We were able to snap a quick shot, capturing the blowhole, before the twosome took the plunge.

– Mary

Nina Notes: Outstanding Mary!

I have not seen a whale yet

I hope I will see the migration soon

– Katherine

Nina Notes: We are seeing the whales in the Two Harbors areas now

I think I saw a beluga whale

off Black’s Point in Lutsen

Nina Notes: No beluga's in Lake Superior, they are a type of Right Whale. Nice to hear they are moving up the shore.

Memorial Day Weekend Best for Great Lakes Whale Watching

There has been an explosion in the population of Great Lakes whales in Lake Michigan. Once, nearly driven to extinction from over-harvesting by the whaling industry in the mid-1800’s, the numbers of the inland cetaceans have seen a dramatic increase in recent years. So much so that it has set off a corollary boom in the popular whale watching cruise boat fleet, which enjoyed full occupancy on most of its vessels and waiting lists for bookings this coming weekend, according to tour boat operators in Wisconsin and western Michigan port cities.

The reason for what marine biologists have termed an “exponential increase,” has been identified as an unintended consequence of moving the Memorial Day holiday from its traditional date of May 30th to the last Monday in May, in order to ensure a 3-day weekend.  The annual Spring rut of Great Lakes whales was known to 19th century whalers to coincide with the end of May holiday. Extending estrus to three days has naturally had the results we are now seeing in the population.

The phenomenon has not been witnessed on any other of the Great Lakes, presumably because Lake Michigan is the only one of the five lakes that doesn’t straddle the boarder with Canada. Since Memorial Day is uniquely a U.S. holiday, the impact on the breeding season has been neutralized by interbreeding between U.S. and Canadian whales in those waters.

– Gary Tefft – Menomonee Falls, WI May 27, 2016

Nina Notes: Brilliant scientific observations


boy I do love waking up to all these fresh water whales frolicking around!!

– kaiden


A Great Lakes whale was depicted directly above the shield on the design of the flag adopted by the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature in anticipation of being granted statehood. To the left of the shield stands a seaman, more specifically, a whaler, holding a hank of rope. (Great Lakes whaling, of course, was practiced by the more humane method of lassoing, rather than employing the cruel practice of harpooning, as was traditionally done in marine whaling.)

In those days, the lead mining interests in the Southwestern corner of the state, represented by the miner standing to the right of the shield, held much sway in the Legislature and, with the help of wealthy owners of the logging industry up North, were able to get the whale replaced by a badger in the design approved in the first session after Wisconsin was admitted into the Union in 1848. The representatives of the mining and logging interests expressed concern that sooner or later Wisconsin would have a University and their sports teams might become known as the Whales.

The motivation for seeking to replace the image of the whale was rooted more in a desire to maintain domestic tranquility than in a fight over “naming rights” to sports teams, however. It’s well known that the occurrence of obesity among 19th century women was no more prominent than in logging camps, where the phrase, “Eats like a lumberjack” was applied to the women who did the cooking. In what has become known as “The Two-by-Four Compromise,” a figure of a badger was substituted for the whale. Curiously, the flag carries no depiction representing a logger; or does it? In the parlance of the day, someone avoiding an issue was compared to a badger scurrying into its burrow. Meeting minutes from early legislative committee hearings suggest that the logging interests were satisfied in not having to convince their wives that the whale on the flag wasn’t a furtive reference to their figures.

– Gary Tefft – Menomonee Falls, WI May 27, 2016

Nina Notes: Thanks for the history Gary!

whale spotted

We saw the whales from afar and sure enough there was one!

– Amanda


Cold Water Jelly Fish


This jelly was seen digesting a dock near Grand Marais MN.

– David

Nina Notes: Way to capture the beast in action, David!

Hate to be rude but…

I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as whales or narwhals in the Great Lakes…. Cuz it’s freshwater…
Isn’t everyone just trolling?

– Kate

Nina Notes: "Just my imagination, running away with me." Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong

so beautiful!

The whales and narwhals swimming across the lake toward shore is an amazing sight to see!

– Tom


I’m a believer

– Bob

Excellent Viewing 1st Week of September!

The fall freshwater whale migration patterns are expected to change and move much closer shore due to this lunar phenomena .Viewing is expected to be exceptional the first week of September.

Greg M

  • Confused?

    You might want to check out these articles from the Duluth News-Tribune and Seiche (MN Sea Grant Newsletter). see articles
  • Past Sightings

  • Have You Seen Them?

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