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

19 September, 2020
dorsal fin of a whale on lake superior

Breathtaking and wonderful

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

4 September, 2020
08C002A5-30BD-4417-8EC0-2BB07AF9007F_4_5005_c

Humpback mother and calf

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

– Clara

2 April, 2020
cresting back of whale in lake superior

Humpback near Taconite Harbor

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

30 March, 2020
2020 lake superior whale

What?! They’re Here!

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

4 March, 2020

Mega huge whale

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

– a

1 November, 2019
sturgeon in an aquarium

A Mystical Encounter

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

– Darrel

5 June, 2019
inflatable whale lake superior

Whale of a tale

Saw this whale at Split Rock Lighthouse while hiking yesterday.

– Ian

8 April, 2019

Mother superior

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

– A Local

7 April, 2019

Whale Soundings

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

2 April, 2019
baby whale breaching on lake superior

Spring Activity!

Took this just offshore at Surfside Resort

Daniel

1 April, 2019

April Fools!

Almost got sucked in..great one!

– Jacqui

1 April, 2019

Guides

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

6 October, 2018

I saw one

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
10 August, 2018
splash from a whale on lake superior with taconite harbor in the background

Summer Splash!

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

13 July, 2018
whale back just breaking the surface of lake superior

Foggy Sighting

Spotted this whale briefly between Tofte and Lutsen

– Peggy

7 May, 2018
photoshopped whale pteradactyl over lake superior

No way!

Whales aren’t real.

27 April, 2018

Whale

Yes, a whale is what I saw!!

– Bob

12 March, 2018

WHALES!

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

11 January, 2018
underwater image drawing

Hmmm, whales in Lake Superior?

Amazing

– Will

30 November, 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

28 August, 2017

Excellent Sighting In Two Harbors!!!


Look what I saw August 25th!

15 August, 2017
whale jumping behind family at park point in duluth mn

Just off Park Point!

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

15 August, 2017
tour boat group looking at rock of ages lighthouse at isle royale not seeing whale

Rock of Ages- Orcas feeding

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

2 August, 2017
three generations of women from iowa pose with a leaping whale lake superior

Iowans Spot Minnesota Killer Whale

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

– Allie

31 July, 2017
visitor watching whale breaching in calm waters of east bay lake superior in grand marais

Orca in Grand Marais!!

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

29 June, 2017
whale jumping in front of aerial lift bridge

In Duluth

Next to the Aerial Lift Bridge!

8 February, 2017
whale breaches near duluth ship canal

Rare Canal Park sighting

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

21 January, 2017
whale tail on a grey day in choppy lake superior waters

January sighting near Lutsen

Upon arriving at our condo in Lutsen I stepped out on the deck with my camera, (D300 Nikon with 600mm telephoto lense) 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

11 January, 2017
onlookers watch whale offshore near marquette mi

Grey Whale Migration in Marquette

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

30 August, 2016
people on boat tour watch whale tail descend into lake superior

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

29 June, 2016
lake superior waves roll over rock with blow hole

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

13 June, 2016

I have not seen a whale yet

I hope I will see the migration soon

– Katherine

3 June, 2016

I think I saw a beluga whale

off Black’s Point in Lutsen

28 May, 2016

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

28 May, 2016

nice!!

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

– kaiden

28 May, 2016
whale on wisconsin state flag

GREAT LAKES WHALE ORIGINALLY ON WISCONSIN STATE FLAG

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

28 March, 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

15 February, 2016
snow formation on rock with skirt of icicles in lake superior

Cold Water Jelly Fish

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

– David

1 January, 2016

so beautiful!

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

– Tom

2 December, 2015

Believe

I’m a believer

– Bob

28 August, 2015

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

28 July, 2015
narwahl with corkscrew tusk rises from water

Narwahl

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

5 July, 2015

Whales !

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

8 June, 2015
man in whale watching t-shirt and lab on lake superior shore

A pod playing in a laker’s wake.

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

11 May, 2015
split rock mermaid

1970s Sighting

“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

29 April, 2015
minnesota dnr tagging whales on lake superior

Whale Tagging on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior

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

20 February, 2015
narwahl pod near aerial lit bridge winter

Narwhal Migration

I love getting up early with my boys to catch the narwhal migration along the shore.”

Dean B

11 February, 2015

2 Cents Worth

“this sight is faker than a 3 dollar bill dont trust it!”

Austin E, Wayne, IN

12 October, 2014
man in whale watching t-shirt with binoculars looking for whale in duluth

Still Looking

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

30 September, 2014
calm waters showcase whale tail underwater and back just breaking surface of lake superior

Lake Superior Bay Ontario

“Caught a glimpse of this one in an Ontario bay last fall”

Max S, Houghton, MI

14 September, 2014
two excited women point out whale jumping from lake superior

We Saw Them!

“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

7 August, 2014
man in whale watching t-shirt points them out

Andy Saw Them!

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

4 July, 2014
soo locks

Eastern edge of Lake Superior

“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

27 June, 2014
whale splash lake superior

Jun 27, 2014

“Pretty sure this was a whale!”

anonymous

23 June, 2014
boy in skeleton jacket pointing to whale

Split Rock Lighthouse

“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

21 June, 2014
whale near big bay lake superior's north shore

Big Bay, NE of Grand Marais

“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

3 April, 2014
polar bear along brighton beach lake superior

Brighton Beach near Duluth

“I thought you and your 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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