While Loch Ness, Scotland’s Nessie is certainly the world’s most famous lake monster, it most assuredly does not stand – or swim – alone. Numerous lakes around the world are said to be the lairs of monstrous serpents of the deep. In all likelihood, some sightings of such alleged creatures are likely to be due to mistaken identity – of catfish and sturgeon, both of which can grow to impressive sizes. But, there are those reports that simply cannot be dismissed in such a down to earth fashion. Take, for example, Ogopogo, of Okanagan Lake, British Columbia. It’s interesting to note that Okanagan Lake is, like Loch Ness, a place of considerable size, one in which a colony of predominantly underwater-based creatures could survive and thrive. It is more than eighty miles long, three miles wide, and just short of 250 feet deep.
Like its Scottish cousin, Nessie, Ogopogo has a long and rich history of sightings. We may never know for sure how far back into history of the creatures of Okanagan Lake extend, but we can say for sure that the Native Americans that lived in the area as early as the 1700s knew that the waters of the lake were home to something monstrous and terrifying. That much is evident by the name they gave to the beast – or, far more likely, of course, beasts. They called it the “n’ha-a-itk.” Very appropriately, it translates into English as “Lake Demon.”
Perhaps “Lake Demon” was too horrific for the locals and they settled upon “Ogopogo.” The story of the name is an intriguing and winding one, as the late cryptozoologist, Mark Chorvinsky noted: “The name Ogopogo might suggest to some that it is an Indian word, but all evidence points to a modern origin. According to Mary Moon, author of Ogopogo: the Okanagan Mystery (1977), in 1924 a local named Bill Brimblecomb sang a song parodying a popular British music-hall tune at a Rotary Club luncheon in Vernon, a city in the northern Okanagan Valley. H.F. Beattie adapted the lyrics.” As for those lyrics, they read as follows: “I’m looking for the Ogopogo, His mother was a mutton, his father was a whale, I’m going to put a little bit of salt on his tail.”
When it comes to the eyewitness accounts of Ogopogo, the list is impressive. Most witnesses describe a large creature – anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five feet and, on occasion, even as long as fifty feet – serpentine in appearance, and sometimes displaying undulating “humps” and a neck that occasionally rises out of the water, to a height of six to seven feet. If true, then this effectively rules out sturgeon or catfish as being the guilty parties. And with that said, let’s now take a look at the evidence in support of the theory that Okanagan Lake is a domain of monsters.
It was on September 16, 1926 that Ogopogo was really thrown into the limelight. Literally dozens of people – in no less than thirty vehicles – saw a mysterious creature in the vicinity of Okanagan Mission Beach. Like so many others, all were unanimous in their belief that the beast was an immense serpent-like animal. On July 2, 1947, a Mr. Kray got a good look at an Ogopogo and said the creature had “a long sinuous body, 30 feet in length, consisting of about five undulations, apparently separated from each other by about a two-foot space, in which that part of the undulations would have been underwater. There appeared to be a forked tail, of which only one-half came above the water. From time to time the whole thing submerged and came up again.”
Jumping forward more than forty years, there is the case of Ernie Giroux, a hunting-guide, who spotted a fifteen-foot-long creature in the waters of the lake in the summer of 1989. Whatever the beast was, it was like nothing Giroux had ever seen before: it “swam real gracefully,” had a head shaped like a football, and a long neck. To date, the number of reports of Ogopogo are in the hundreds. As to what the monsters may be – surviving creatures from the Jurassic era, giant eels, or something entirely unknown to science – the answers still elude both monster-hunters and those that have been fortunate enough to encounter the famous monster.