whale breaches on lake superior

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! Confused? see the right hand column [desktop] bottom of page [mobile].

Check out this whale action from April 2019:

And check out this killer whale sighted right in Duluth.

Then check out all the North Shore Activities

September 30, 2021

spouting-whale

Spouting Off!

September 26, 2021

Perfect title, right?!
Motoring up the shore for the last week of trout fishing and saw this whale. Fished here many times, have only seen whales a few times and haven’t been able to get a shot until now. Not great but it’s a whale!

– Patty

LSWWS comments

They can be so hard to photograph, good for you!

September 30, 2021

whale-swimming-by

Saw it!

July 7, 2021

I never believed this whale in Lake Superior stuff … until last week. We were up on top of Palisade Head and saw a group of people pointing. I pulled out my long lens and captured this image. If you need to see it to believe it, here’s proof!

– Sally

LSWWS comments

Nice photo Sally. It must have been exciting to be up high looking down on the whale. I’ve never seen one from that vantage point.

September 30, 2021

big-spout

Big Spout!

June 20, 2021

We were all zen on Stony Point, taking in the massiveness of the lake and then there was a huge splash. The lake went calm and we thought that was it, but no. It surfaced and blew it’s top!

– Frankie

LSWWS comments

How exciting!

September 19, 2020

dorsal fin of a whale on lake superior

Breathtaking and wonderful

September 19, 2020
Went snorkelling with family just east of Schroeder in late October last year. We saw 2 Orcas (killer whales). One was giving birth. Absolutely amazing. This is God’s glory.

– Scott

LSWWS comments

Isn’t life grand? Note: no orcas in Lake Superior, so another breed

September 4, 2020

08C002A5-30BD-4417-8EC0-2BB07AF9007F_4_5005_c

Humpback mother and calf

September 4, 2020

We saw these two humpback whales (a mother and her calf) near Duluth last Saturday.

– Clara

LSWWS comments

Thanks for the report Clara!

April 2, 2020

cresting back of whale in lake superior

Humpback near Taconite Harbor

April 2, 2020

We were checking out the boat landing to see if the ice was out yet and this beautiful whale came up just off shore!

-Ben M

LSWWS comments

It is a beauty!

March 30, 2020

2020 lake superior whale

What?! They’re Here!

March 30, 2020

I was taking a drive along Scenic 61 and had stopped at Bluebird Landing to look at the lake. At first I thought it was a rock. Everything was grey that day. But then it disappeared AND CAME BACK!!

-Julia V

LSWWS comments

Official 1st sighting of the year! Congrats Julia!

March 4, 2020

Mega huge whale

March 4, 2020

There was an amazingly huge whale in Lake Superior! The water came out of the top!! Amazing experience!!!!!!!!!

– a

November 1, 2019

sturgeon in an aquarium

A Mystical Encounter

November 1, 2019

I was walking ’round dat dere river and saw one of ’em. It was in the river! This happened and I saw it.

– Darrel

LSWWS comments

I believe this happened. It’s just not a whale.

June 5, 2019

inflatable whale lake superior

Whale of a tale

June 5, 2019

Saw this whale at Split Rock Lighthouse while hiking yesterday.

– Ian

LSWWS comments

That’s a ballon, Ian.

April 8, 2019

Mother superior

April 8, 2019

I love scuba diving in Lake Superior. You always can swim with these beautiful whales. They are in all depths.

– A Local

LSWWS comments

Brrrr!

April 7, 2019

Whale Soundings

April 7, 2019

Sadly, this winter I hadn’t heard any whales sounding under the ice here in the Hovland MN/Chicago Bay by the big dock like previous years. Apparently, they were hanging out farther down the shore at the west end of the county. Someone from down there posted photos recently.

– MJ

April 2, 2019

baby whale breaching on lake superior

Spring Activity!

April 2, 2019

Took this just offshore at Surfside Resort

Daniel

April 1, 2019

April Fools!

April 1, 2019

Almost got sucked in..great one!

– Jacqui

LSWWS comments

Not sure what you mean, Jacqui.

April 1, 2019

Guides

April 1, 2019

I just read an article on google, called, “9 great whale watching places in North America”. Grand Marais has moved into the 10th spot!

– Randy

LSWWS comments

Moving up in the world!

October 6, 2018

I saw one

October 6, 2018

We were up for fall colors and hiking Oberg and way out in the distance, you could a water spout. I tried to take a picture with my phone, but no luck. It was a great – fall colors and a whale sighting

  • Jody

LSWWS comments

Sounds like the perfect fall day. Happy for you!

August 10, 2018

splash from a whale on lake superior with taconite harbor in the background

Summer Splash!

August 10, 2018

We had pulled down into Taconite Harbor to take in the sights and there she was – SPLASH! It was amazing! Wish the photo was better, but we’ll never forget it! The North Shore rocks!

– Bibi

LSWWS comments

Isn’t it fabulous?!

July 13, 2018

whale back just breaking the surface of lake superior

Foggy Sighting

July 13, 2018

Spotted this whale briefly between Tofte and Lutsen

– Peggy

LSWWS comments

🙂

May 7, 2018

photoshopped whale pteradactyl over lake superior

No way!

May 7, 2018

Whales aren’t real.

me

LSWWS comments

Of course they are!

April 27, 2018

Whale

April 27, 2018

Yes, a whale is what I saw!!

– Bob

LSWWS comments

Bob writes from near Beaver Bay; looks like spring might be here!

March 12, 2018

WHALES!

March 12, 2018

There was a whale in a Lake Superior. I couldn’t believe it. The first thing I saw was the spout of water , then sure enough, up came the back, and finally the tail. It was awesome! I was at the Silver Bay Marina. Check it out if you’re there.

– John

LSWWS comments

Thanks for the report!

January 11, 2018

underwater image drawing

Hmmm, whales in Lake Superior?

January 11, 2018

Amazing

– Will

LSWWS comments

Yep!

November 30, 2017

free willy poster

Free Willy

While honey-mooning in Grand Marais with my husband (Zachary) we came upon an unhealthy sight. There were whales in the lake! I don’t know how on earth they got there, but I think they should be freed. This is not a good environment for their well being. Set the Willy’s free.

– Nancy

LSWWS comments

The Lake Superior ecosystem supports a great number of living organisms. Evidence of the variety indicates a healthy habitat.

August 28, 2017

Excellent Sighting In Two Harbors!!!

August 25, 2017

Look what I saw August 25th!

LSWWS comments

Absolutely outstanding!!

August 15, 2017

whale jumping behind family at park point in duluth mn

Just off Park Point!

August 15, 2017

Just after our picnic, we went down to Park Point beach to build sand castles and enjoy a rare warm Duluth day! I posed with the kids for a photo and my wife got an amazing shot!

– Jim

LSWWS comments

Perfect Summer Day!

August 15, 2017

tour boat group looking at rock of ages lighthouse at isle royale not seeing whale

Rock of Ages- Orcas feeding

August 15, 2017

The warm August waters drive Killer Whales to greater depths. We spotted a pack on the Rock of Ages reef. Thanks to Grand Portage Charters for the whale watching tour!

– Clay

LSWWS comments

Sounds like a great charter! FYI – a group of whales is called a pod.

August 2, 2017

three generations of women from iowa pose with a leaping whale lake superior

Iowans Spot Minnesota Killer Whale

August 2, 2017

We had a special photo bomber while scaling the rocks of Thomsonite Beach.

– Allie

LSWWS comments

Sweet!

July 31, 2017

visitor watching whale breaching in calm waters of east bay lake superior in grand marais

Orca in Grand Marais!!

July 31, 2017
My wife and I spent our 10th Anniversary in the Grand Marais area this past weekend. The sites and town were beautiful! We had heard of whale sightings in the area, so we decided to spend an evening eating pizza and custard on the roof of Sydney’s and spotted this beauty (and were fortunate enough to get a pic)! We were expecting humpbacks or narwhales, but definitely not an orca! What a wonderful surprise!!

– Matt

LSWWS comments

Love this shot! And Happy Anniversary!

June 29, 2017

whale jumping in front of aerial lift bridge

In Duluth

June 29, 2017
Next to the Aerial Lift Bridge!

Betsy

LSWWS comments

I’ve had verbal confirmation, too. The whales are on the move!

February 8, 2017

whale breaches near duluth ship canal

Rare Canal Park sighting

February 8, 2017
Walking along Canal Park one afternoon and this beauty breached the water. Good thing I had my camera out to get a shot of the lighthouse!

– Nisa

LSWWS comments

Wow! Nice shot!

January 21, 2017

whale tail on a grey day in choppy lake superior waters

January sighting near Lutsen

January 21, 2017

Upon arriving at our condo in Lutsen I stepped out on the deck with my camera, (D300 Nikon with 600mm telephoto lens) and got incredibly lucky with this shot. Not sure what type of whale it was, and never saw it again although I monitored the lake for hours during our week’s stay.

– Gary

LSWWS comments

Great shot, Gary! Looks like the Lake Superior Minke whale.

January 11, 2017

onlookers watch whale offshore near marquette mi

Grey Whale Migration in Marquette

January 11, 2017
Caught a group of Grey whales feeding up in the shallows along McCarty’s Cove. Cold day, but a couple Yoopers came out to watch. The Grey Whales should be around a couple more days before continuing their migration up to Copper Harbor.

– Clay

LSWWS comments

Thanks for a report from the South Shore of Lake Superior!

August 30, 2016

people on boat tour watch whale tail descend into lake superior

Whales breaching

August 30, 2016
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

LSWWS comments

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

June 29, 2016

lake superior waves roll over rock with blow hole

Snorkeling Happenstance

June 29, 2016
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

LSWWS comments

Outstanding Mary! You have our admiration for snorkeling in June, too.

June 13, 2016

I have not seen a whale yet

June 13, 2016
I hope I will see the migration soon

– Katherine

LSWWS comments

We are seeing the whales in the Two Harbors areas now

June 3, 2016

I think I saw a beluga whale

. . . off Black’s Point in Lutsen

LeRoy

LSWWS comments

It wouldn’t be a beluga as that breed is not found in Lake Superior; good to hear they are moving up the shore.

May 28, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend Best for Great Lakes Whale Watching

May 28, 2016
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 border 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

LSWWS comments

Brilliant scientific observations from an observer on a sister great lake.

May 28, 2016

nice!!

May 28, 2016
Boy I do love waking up to all these fresh water whales frolicking around!!

– Kaiden

LSWWS comments

Nothing beats a morning whale sighting!

May 28, 2016

whale on wisconsin state flag

Great Lakes Whale Originally on WISCONSIN State Flag

May 28, 2016
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

LSWWS comments

Thanks for the history, Gary!

March 28, 2016

two girls in polka dot turquoise don't realize a whale is passing by

whale spotted

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

– Amanda

LSWWS comments

Spotting a whale, yes; a spotted whale . . . not yet.

February 15, 2016

snow formation on rock with skirt of icicles in lake superior

Cold Water Jelly Fish

February 15, 2016
This jelly was seen digesting a dock near Grand Marais MN.

– David

LSWWS comments

Way to capture the beast in action, David!

January 1, 2016

so beautiful!

January 1, 2016
The whales and narwhals swimming across the lake toward shore is an amazing sight to see!

– Tom

LSWWS comments

We agrre. Every whale sighting is amazing!

December 2, 2015

Believe

December 2, 2015
I’m a believer

– Bob

LSWWS comments

We believe you, Bob.

August 28, 2015

Excellent Viewing 1st Week of September!

August 28, 2015
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

LSWWS comments

We love a good whale watching forecast!

July 28, 2015

narwahl with corkscrew tusk rises from water

Narwahl

July 28, 2015
While I was disappointed that I didn’t see any humpback whales, I did spot a fine looking Narwhal. Wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it with my own two eyes.

– Sam

LSWWS comments

Sam, you are lucky! Not many narwahl sightings and fewer photos. Thanks for sharing!

July 5, 2015

Whales !

July 5, 2015
We were walking down the rock beach in Little Marais and it was evening and we saw a whale breach the water but didn’t have our phones on us to take a picture ! It was beautiful ! And then we saw a baby it was so cool !

– Matt

LSWWS comments

We appreciate the report, with or without photos.

June 8, 2015

man in whale watching t-shirt and lab on lake superior shore

A pod playing in a laker’s wake

June 8, 2015
We brought our whale pointing lab Pauly with us this spring. He spotted a pod playing in the wake of a laker at the Silver Cliff Tunnel wayside. Of course with our luck and the fog and haze they didn’t show up in the picture.

Jeff , Sue and Pauly, the whale spotting lab

La Crosse, WI

LSWWS comments

Well done, Pauly!

May 11, 2015

split rock mermaid

1970s Sighting

May 11, 2015
“Reminiscing about past Mother’s Day and found this photo from a drive we took up the shore Mother’s Day 1972. Going to have come back up and look for whales.”

Linda

LSWWS comments

Wow!

April 29, 2015

minnesota dnr tagging whales on lake superior

Whale Tagging on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior

April 29, 2015
At the prime State Park on the North Shore to view fresh water whales; partaking in the State of Minnesota’s whale stocking program in Lake Superior.

– Richard B & Gary H

LSWWS comments

Outstanding in every way!

February 20, 2015

narwahl pod near aerial lit bridge winter

Narwhal Migration

February 20, 2015
:I love getting up early with my boys to catch the narwhal migration along the shore.”

Dean B

LSWWS comments

It is amazing what lives below the surface of this big lake.

February 11, 2015

2 Cents Worth

February 11, 2015
“This sight is faker than a 3 dollar bill don’t trust it!”

Austin E, Wayne, IN

LSWWS comments

Austin and other skeptics should read the articles under the box titled “Confused?”

October 12, 2014

man in whale watching t-shirt with binoculars looking for whale in duluth

Still Looking

October 12, 2014
Nina- I kept a close eye on the harbor and canal this year. Still no whales.
( I really thought the shirt would help too! )

Jeff & Sue LaCrosse, WI

LSWWS comments

With the cool water temps in Lake Superior this summer, it’s been an odd season.

September 30, 2014

calm waters showcase whale tail underwater and back just breaking surface of lake superior

Lake Superior Bay Ontario

September 30, 2014
“Caught a glimpse of this one in an Ontario bay last fall”

Max S, Houghton, MI

LSWWS comments

What a beauty!

September 14, 2014

two excited women point out whale jumping from lake superior

We Saw Them!

September 14, 2014
“A colleague took this shot on the Manitou Island ferry this weekend, heading back from North Manitou. My adviser thinks it was a female Megaptera boreas!”

Laura Fischer
Forestry Wildlife and Fisheries
Michigan State University

LSWWS comments

Megaptera boreas is a Humpback whale

August 7, 2014

man in whale watching t-shirt points them out

Andy Saw Them!

August 7, 2014

Andy found a whale today in MN when we were paddle-boarding so I thought I would share these fun photos. Enjoy! Andy claims he saw a whale in Lake Owwaso today. I would call him an official Fresh Water Whale Watcher.

Chrissy, Minneapolis MN

LSWWS comments

This Fresh Water Whale Watcher sighted one in his fabulous new t-shirt!

July 4, 2014

soo locks

Eastern edge of Lake Superior

July 4, 2014
“It’s too damn cold. I bet the whales are all stacked by the Soo trying to stay warm. Water temps are still 38-42.”

Dale H

LSWWS comments

Dale is referring to the locks at Sault Ste Marie separating Michigan and Ontario

June 27, 2014

whale splash lake superior

Splash!

June 27, 2014
“Pretty sure this was a whale!”

anonymous

LSWWS comments

pretty sure you’re right

June 23, 2014

boy in skeleton jacket pointing to whale

Split Rock Lighthouse

June 23, 2014
“While taking the typical tourist photos at split rock lighthouse wayside, my grandson saw two surface. Of course by the time I got the camera turned and zoomed out onto the lake they were long gone.”

Jeff and Sue, La Crosse, WI, featuring super spotter Dameon

LSWWS comments

nice spotting!

June 21, 2014

whale near big bay lake superior's north shore

Big Bay, Big Whale

June 21, 2014
“We thought we saw something in the water, joked it was a whale . . . and then it was! We think it was by itself. It barely broke the surface, but we did get this shot.”

Anderson Clan

LSWWS comments

Nice! Note: Big Bay is northeast of Grand Marais

April 3, 2014

polar bear along brighton beach lake superior

Brighton Beach near Duluth

April 3,2014
“I thought you and the viewers of your fantastic website may find this photo interesting. I am guessing since the whales moved into Lake Superior a number of years ago it was only time before the bears followed.”

Best wishes,

Mike

  • confused?

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

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