The 45-foot gray whale known as "Mama" -- that took up residence in Northern California's Klamath River -- died Tuesday after the mammal beached itself on a sandbar.
"Mama" drew delighted big crowds for more than a month after becoming stranded in the river. The whale swam into the river with its calf in late June, remaining in the fresh water for an unknown reason.
Efforts to drive the adult gray whale back to sea with killer whale sounds broadcast upriver didn't persuade "Mama" to leave. Her calf swam out to sea on July 23.
The mother remained in the river after her calf weaned and departed, feeding on "invasive species of clams and snails in the mud of the river bottom, blowing great geysers of air and water out of her blowhole, and spending much of its time within sight of people who lined a U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the river," according to The Associated Press.
Many obsevers became "enthralled" by the whale. Some stood by the river playing violins. Others paddled out to the whale in canoes playing flutes and other musical instruments.
"It's very sad," Thomas O'Rourke, chairman of the Yurok Tribe, who reservation lines the banks of the river south of Crescent City, Calif., told AP. "It started to become a part of the community."
O'Rourke said this is the farthest up river he had ever seen a whale. He said they often come into the mouth of the river, however.
"I believe there is a message there," he said, "and we are still yet to understand."