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, then explore all the North Shore Activities

 

Are there really whales in Lake Superior

Get the answer in these articles from the Duluth News-Tribune and Seiche (MN Sea Grant Newsletter).

October 3, 2022

lake superior whale with fall colors in lutsen

Fall Color Whales!!

We rode the gondola to the top of Moose Mountain. The hillsides looked like a watercolor painting of fall colors. Wow! And then . . . bonus! we spotted a dark spot on the lake, watched it and noticed a spray. Whales!! We think there was a calf trailing behind and you could see the swirls where others were diving.

Best Fall Day. Ever.

– Carrie & Piper

January 24, 2022

Never would have thought, but here we are

I’ve heard of the whales in lake superior, but didn’t think they were real until now. I came up from Kalamazoo to see my daughter and when we were taking a morning stroll my jaw dropped.

– Jamie

LSWWS comments: It blows you away doesn’t it?

November 1, 2021

Hard evidence!

LSWWS comments: So happy you saw them William & Tillia!

September 26, 2021

Spouting Off!

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!

July 7, 2021

Saw it!

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.

June 20, 2021

Big Spout!

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

Went snorkeling 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.

April 2, 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

LSWWS comments: It is a beauty!

March 30, 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

LSWWS comments: Official 1st sighting of the year! Congrats Julia!

March 4, 2020

Mega huge whale

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

– a

June 5, 2019

inflatable whale lake superior

Whale of a tale

Saw this whale at Split Rock Lighthouse while hiking yesterday.

– Ian

LSWWS comments: That’s a balloon, Ian.

April 2, 2019

baby whale breaching on lake superior

Spring Activity!

Took this just offshore at Surfside Resort

Daniel

LSWWS comments: Wow, what a sight!

October 6, 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

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!

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

Spotted this whale briefly between Tofte and Lutsen

– Peggy

LSWWS comments: Excellent!

April 27, 2018

Whale

Yes, a whale is what I saw!!

– Bob

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

April 11, 2018

underwater image drawing

Hmmm, whales in Lake Superior?

Amazing

– Will

LSWWS comments: Yep!

March 12, 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

LSWWS comments: Thanks for the report

November 2, 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 25, 2017

Excellent Sighting In Two Harbors!!!

Look what I saw August 25th!

LSWWS comments: Absolutely outstanding!!

August 15, 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

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

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

– Allie

LSWWS comments: Sweet!

August 2, 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

LSWWS comments: Perfect Summer Day!

July 31, 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

LSWWS comments: Love this shot! And Happy Anniversary!

June 29, 2017

whale jumping in front of aerial lift bridge

In Duluth

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

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

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

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

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

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: LSWWS comments:

June 13, 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.

June 13, 2016

I have not seen a whale yet

I hope I will see the migration soon

– Katherine

LSWWS comments: We are seeing the whales in the Two Harbors areas now

May 28, 2016

nice!!

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

– Kaiden

LSWWS comments: Nothing beats a morning whale sighting!

May 27, 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

LSWWS comments: Thanks for the history, Gary!

May 27, 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 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.

March 28, 2016

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

whale spotted

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

– Amanda

LSWWS comments: Flying whales, that’s something new.

February 15, 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

LSWWS comments: Way to capture the beast in action, David!

December 2, 2015

Believe

I’m a believer

– Bob

LSWWS comments: We believe you, Bob.

August 28, 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

LSWWS comments: We love a good whale watching forecast!

July 28, 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

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

July 5, 2015

Whale sighting North Shore

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

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

May 11, 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

LSWWS comments: Wow!

April 29, 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

LSWWS comments: Outstanding in every way!

April 3, 2015

polar bear along brighton beach lake superior

Brighton Beach near Duluth

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

LSWWS comments: Compliment me and I’ll post anything.

February 11, 2015

2 Cents Worth

“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?”

September 30, 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

LSWWS comments: What a beauty!

September 14, 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

LSWWS comments: Megaptera boreas is a Humpback whale

August 7, 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

LSWWS comments: I love to see our members in the field in their LSWWS gear!

July 4, 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

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

June 27, 2014

whale splash lake superior

Splash!

Pretty sure this was a whale. Was by Judge Magney State Park.

anonymous

LSWWS comments: Pretty sure you’re right!

June 23, 2014

boy in skeleton jacket pointing to whale

Split Rock Lighthouse Whale Sighting

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: You are a bona fide spotter Dameon!

June 21, 2014

whale near big bay lake superior's north shore

Big Bay, Big Whale

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)