Whale Watching on the Great Lakes

Whale Watching on the Great Lakes

Could whale watching on the Great Lakes be the next big thing? (NOAA photo)

Could whale watching on the Great Lakes be the next big thing? (NOAA photo)


While the possibility of Asian carp invading the Great Lakes makes news, another phenomenon of the inland seas receives little attention: the presence of freshwater whales in the inland seas.

The discovery of whale fossils was first documented in Michigan in 1861 and whale bones and teeth have been found here ever since, proving the existence of finback, sperm, and right whales in the region. And where there are whales, there are whale watchers, right? Indeed, say those in the know.

Great Lakes Whale Watching (provided photo)

Great Lakes Whale Watching (provided photo)

“The Great Lakes is a fantastic place to observe the annual whale migration,” according to a Great Lakes whale watching charter boat site. “Last year almost 2,000 whales were recorded travelling through our region.”

The best spotting is done during spring and fall migrations.

A recent edition of Seiche, the Minnesota Sea Grant newsletter from the University of Minnesota, addressed reported whale sightings in Lake Superior and referenced the unofficial source for info on the subject, the North Shore Visitor website featuring Freshwater Whale Watching Along the North Shore.

In several posts on the FWWANS site folks back up their claims of whale sightings with pictures and whale tales.

Most Lake Superior whale sightings are reported between March and the end of October, but whale spotter Marissa from Minneapolis declared a February sighting, the earliest showing in the few years that the FWWANS web page has been online.

Aerial Bridge, Duluth MInnesota (Seiche photo)

Aerial Bridge, Duluth Minnesota (Seiche photo)

Membership in the loosely knit Lake Superior Whale Watching Society is open to all who are interested in the marine mammals; you need not have witnessed a whale in the Great Lakes to join.

Some have called whale watching on the Great Lakes one of the world’s best kept tourism secrets, although that may be changing; the Facebook page Lake Michigan Whale Migration Station has more than 7,100 fans.

The award-winning Pure Michigan advertising campaign has yet to feature the activity. (NOTE: It is rumored that Tim Allen, the voice of the radio and TV ads, is on the hook for new spots as soon as the agency’s film crew is able to capture suitable footage of the whales.)

Perhaps the cause of Great Lakes whale watching needs the same publicity machine behind the Asian carp story.

Afterall, stories about those fish and their potential threat to the freshwater seas seem to surface often in the news, despite the fact that no one has reported seeing an Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

In an effort to give our freshwater whales the respect and attention they deserve we’d like to announce the launch of GreatLakesWhaleWatchingSociety.com,  based at the Great Lakes Gazette headquarters in the Upper Peninsula Lake Michigan fishing village of Naubinway (aka Top of the Lake).

We’d like to announce it, but it’s a bit premature. Still, this seems the appropriate time to alert you to the website under development, so be sure to Like us on Facebook and share your email address (click here and sign up at the lower right) to receive alerts about the launch of GLWWS and other news from Great Lakes Gazette.




NOTE: This story has been updated since it first appeared at Great Lakes Gazette on April 1, 2011.