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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 2023, then explore all the North Shore Activities

Holy cow! A new sighting in Lake Superior!

At Grand Marais Harbor, April 1  😉

Are there really whales in Lake Superior

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

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!

sun over gunflint trail lake at golden eagle cabins

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.

framed wintry view of lake superior shoreline at grand superior near gooseberry falls

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!

wintry lutsen sea villa condos on lake superior with lutsen mountains in background
sparkling wintry lake superior and ice sheets stacked on north shore

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