The Legend of Ogopogo, the Lake Monster of British Columbia

Most people have heard of the Loch Ness Monster, but did you know that “Nessie” isn’t alone? There are three other legends in the British Isles alone, plus there are no less than 16 mysterious water creatures alleged to be living in Canada and 22 in the USA!

Like Nessie, some people theorize that Ogopogo
is a leftover creature from dinosaur times,
such as a type of plesiosaur
“Ogopogo” is the most famous fresh water monster in Canada, believed to reside in Lake Okanagan, British Columbia. First Nations peoples told stories about the “water demon” or “snake in the lake” long before European settlers arrived, and some native pictographs (rock art) have been found that are said to depict the beast. According to legend, Kel-oni-won was a man possessed by a demon, and he murdered a respected elder named "Old Kan-he-kan " with a war club. The Creator punished Kel-oni-won by changing him into a lake serpent forever. The tribe then named the lake after Old Kan-he-kan (Okanagan)

Squally Point, Rattlesnake Island
Native tradition also holds that the lair of the monster was a cave beneath Squally Point near Rattlesnake Island, just offshore from Peachland, BC.  No one would attempt to cross this particular lake without bringing along small animals to drop in as offerings! However, the story is told of a visiting chieftain who refused to believe the creature existed. He deliberately canoed near Squally Point, and suddenly the monster rose up and whipped the water with his tail. The chieftain and all who were with him were pulled underwater, never to be seen again. 

Lake Okanagan, British Columbia
Another story recounts that when a horse bent down to drink near this area, the monster seized the horse's nose and pulled him under! Yet another account tells of a group of natives planning to row to the town of Kelowna for supplies.  On the way, three of the lake monsters attempted to tip their boat! The men escaped and returned to their home and no one tried to cross the lake for a very long time.

The Salish people in the area called the lake monster N'ha-a-itk, or “lake demon”. The Chinook peoples called it "wicked one" and "great-beast-on-the-lake." In 1924, however, a Vancouver newspaper reporter parodied a British song, “Ogo-Pogo, The Funny Foxtrot” in order to make fun of the reported sightings of the time:

His mother was an earwig;
His father was a whale;
A little bit of head
And hardly any tail
And Ogo-pogo was his name.

Unfortunately, the native names for the monster were promptly forgotten or ignored, and the creature has been called Ogopogo ever since!

Sightings of the creature consistently
mention its long neck
Recorded sightings of the monster by Europeans date back to the mid-1800s (which predates the first sightings of Nessie in Loch Ness by about 60 years!) In 1854, settler John MacDougall was in a canoe, swimming his team of horses across the lake. Without warning, the horses were dragged under by forces unseen. He was forced to cut the lead ropes to save the canoe from being pulled under as well, and narrowly escaped. The horses disappeared without a trace.

The first recorded sighting of the creature was by author Susan Allison in 1872. She was watching the lake for signs of her husband returning from a canoe trip, when suddenly she saw an unusual animal swimming against the waves. In 1880 timbers were going to be floated to Osoyoos to Judge and Emily Hayne's ranch. The hand-sawn timbers were being made into a raft, and as they were building it, a Mr. Postill saw the N'ha-a-itk raise its head from the water and watch them! In 1890, Thomas Shorts was captain of a steam ship on the lake and claimed to have seen a finned creature about sixteen feet long with a head like that of a ram. The monster disappeared, however, when Captain Shorts turned the ship in its direction.

Sightings have occurred about six times a year on average ever since, some by large groups of people at the same time. On September 16, 1925, a large creature was seen swimming in the lake by about 30 cars of people parked along a beach! The government subsequently announced that the new ferry being built for travel across the Okanagan Lake would be equipped with special "monster repelling devices"! On July 2, 1947, several boaters reported seeing the monster about the same time. On July 17, 1959, a number of people saw a huge creature with a long neck for about three minute before it submerged.

In 1990 Canada issued a stamp featuring the Ogopogo
Witness accounts vary somewhat but most tell of a serpentine creature from 12 to 70 feet long, glossy black or brown, that undulates through the water. It isn’t clear if the creature actually has a number of humps or if it just looks like that because of its method of locomotion. The Ogopogo is described as having a goat-like or horse-like head on a very long neck. Some witnesses describe their sightings as “logs suddenly coming to life” and swimming away at great speeds, often against the waves.

Occasionally, the creature has been sighted out of the water. In the summer of 1989, a couple out for a walk at night witnessed a large unknown creature emerging from the water onto the shore. Other sightings had been reported in that same spot.

Is it possible that Okanagan Lake has an undiscovered animal, or “cryptid”, living in it? It’s certainly large enough to hide one. The lake extends from Vernon in the north to Penticton in the south, about eighty miles. Surrounded by mountains, it’s been compared to a coastal fjord with its steep-walled deep water basin. The lake depth plunges to nearly 1,000 feet in places! It’s been theorized that underwater passages connect the lake to other bodies of water in – and native tradition says that other lakes in the region have similar creatures!

Dani Harper
Author of the Changeling series of shapeshifter romance novels
www.daniharper.com


GIVEAWAY is now CLOSED

Congrats to "ALAINA A" from
Saskatchewan, Canada.
She's won a paperback copy of
"Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep" by Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe   

Thanks to everyone who read my post and/or left a comment! 

35 comments:

  1. nice story about the canadian ogopogo, i think there might be a bit of truth in it. if the lake that big, it could hide anything, but i dont beleive it could live for 100 odd years, unless it had young ones. its like the loch ness monster it brings in sightseers from all over the world, which would help the local economy

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    1. I agree, there has to be a breeding population to account for sightings over such a long period of time.

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  2. how fun! I love the stamp :) I don't know if I can believe in lake monsters. With all the technology we have I think it would have been proven by now...but I do think there are cryptids out there, just not as big as these monsters :) don't enter me, just stopping by to have fun!

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    1. *waving* Hi Sharon, thanks for the love!

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  3. who's to say that they don't exist. We hear about sitings all the time so there must be some truth to some of the claims. Gale pgan427@yahoo.com

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    1. So many of the witnesses are considered especially credible too - policeman, preacher, etc.

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  4. I have a new word added to my vocab today - cryptids.

    Every now & then, usually after a violent storm at sea, a creature from the depths will be tossed on shore. I don't discount the weird & wonderful at all.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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    1. We're discovering so many species in the ocean alone that we never suspected existed!

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  5. Fascinating post. I think sea monsters exist. If I saw one, I'd try to get away.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. I don't know if I'd be fascinated or frightened -- would depend on just how close it was!

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  6. I think it's possible some unknown creatures exit. If I saw one? If close, I'd run to safety, but if from a distance I'd watch it so I could describe it later.

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    1. If I had my camera, I'd probably forget to use it!

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  7. Forgot to leave my email address. gerri bowen 5 at gmail dot com.

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  8. I am sure they can. And in Virginia, in Chesapeake Bay and in a river not far in a town near me, there's been a sea monster seened in '80s, named Chessie.
    sapphirephelan at Verizon (dot) net

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    1. Chessie is a fascinating legend too!

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  9. I have always been fascinated by the potential existence of these creatures. I'd like to believe that they are really out there. I just wish we could have some solid proof of them being there. Honestly, if I encountered one, I would be scared, but excited as well. How cool would it be to know that they are indeed real? Pretty cool, in my opinion!

    Thanks for the giveaway!
    truebookaddictATgmailDOTcom

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    1. I remember the UFO poster that Fox Mulder had in his office on the old X-Files series --- it said "I Want To Believe". I think that's how I feel too.

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  10. In high school I did one of my papers on Nessie. I believe there can be creature we can not explain. Because they have mastered the art of survival.
    pamblakekenlilly@yahoo.com

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    1. That's a good point - maybe we can't find them BECAUSE they've evolved such great survival skills!

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  11. I believe that these creatures could exist. Who can prove that they do not? I think it would be awesome to see one! I would consider it a gift!
    Thank you for the informative blog and the giveaway! I knew about Nessie but had no idea there were so many others! Cool!
    PhoenixCarvelli at gmail dot com

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    1. There's so many "lake monster" stories, that these creatures can be categorized according to physical type and habits! I agree, it would be a gift to see one!

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  12. I'd love to see a lake monster and hopefully get a good picture of it. I think it's possible that lake monsters do exist because various lakes are so deep that prehistoric creatures could easily have colonies in the depths. The Colaneith (sp?) was thought to be extinct for thousands of years untill one was caught in the 1960's I believe. So who's to say that lake monsters aren't living dinosaurs?

    Mindy :)
    Birdsooong@aol.com

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  13. I love the story of the Coelacanth (what an awful word for a spelling bee!) It gives me hope that other ancient creatures will also be proved "not extinct".

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  14. Thanks for the story. I think there are so many undiscovered "creatures" out there. It would be great to see one up close..well maybe not too close ;o)

    Vanessa Strickler
    vanliz1@aol.com

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    1. I agree -- I'd love to see it, but at a safe distance, LOL!

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  15. Hi! I always been fascinated by every kind of monster! I like the legend around Nessie! I hope they did existed but I don't really think they still exist. If I ever see one, OMG I'll probably freak out since they supposed to be huge! LOL
    Thanks for this giveaway! Original!
    proserpinecravedfor@hotmail.com

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    1. The size would be daunting --- plus we have no idea what (or who) they eat!

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  16. I do beleive they exsist.There is so much of the ocean that has not been explored I think its like 95 % that is unexplored plenty of room for unknown and long thought extinct species to thrive.Id think it was very cool if I ever came across one I wouldnt tell anyone though for fear of it being hunted and disected .
    flanagan@mebtel.net

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    1. That's a good point -- if you see something amazing, do you dare tell anyone? What would happen to the creature if it was found?

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  17. i think something has to exist... what, im not sure.. and with so many faked experiences..something still has to exist! (ever seen the tv show called Surface?? short lived, but fabulous, about mysterious creatures in the depths)
    alainala @ hotmail DOT ca

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    1. I LOVED Surface! So sad it was cancelled -- I'd have loved to see a second season.

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    2. Congrats Alainala --- Your name was drawn from the big blue mixing bowl as the winner of the Lake Monster book. I'll be emailing you in a few minutes!

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  18. There are so many things we are discovering. Who's to say there are not creatures that we haven't yet discovered.

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    1. There certainly seems to be an explosion of discoveries, including new creatures we didn't know existed.

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