Weaving and winding along a small portion of Highway 97 in British Columbia called the Okanagan Highway, you might be fortunate(?) enough one day to catch a glimpse of Ogopogo, the monster that resides in Okanagan Lake.
Sightings of Ogopogo—N’ha-a-itk as native Okanagan residents call it—have been occurring for hundreds of years. Originally seen by First Nations people, this creature is most commonly described as being a 40-to-50 foot long sea serpent. Some scientists proffer the being, quite unlike the more famous Loch Ness monster, is some kind of primitive whale. Noted British crypto zoologist Karl Shuker believes it to be a many-hump lake monster, suggesting as well it may be a primitive serpentine whale. ‘Evidence’, consisting of sightings, photographs, and video are inconclusive. Many say what some feel to be a sea monster is simply an otter, or even a floating log. We’ll leave you, the reader, to form your own conclusions, after reading this article and checking out some of the literature yourself.
Among the numerous sightings of this creature, one in 1926, at Okanagan Mission beach, seems hard to dispute. There were thirty cars of people who claimed to have seen the same thing, at the same time. In 1964, footage of the creature shot by Art Folden showed a “large wake moving across the water.” Computer analysis could only conclude that what was filmed was “a solid, three-dimensional object.” In more recent times, a 2011 cell phone video capture showed two dark shapes in the water. The suggestion was that it was two logs—and not the ‘monster’—that were filmed. In addition to what may be called amateur footage of this mysterious creature, there have been many attempts by movie and television crews to capture footage or the ogre, and many more mentions of it.
As far back as 1978 the TV series In Search of filmed an episode based around an incident a year earlier involving locals Ed Fletcher, Jill Fletcher (his daughter), and Erin Neely. In 1990, a Canadian postage stamp was issued with an artist’s conception of Ogopogo. A 1996 episode of X-Files makes reference to the creature. National Geographic’s series Is It Real: Monsters of the Deep had a segment on Ogopogo in 2005. Mee-Shee is a name used in the same year by a film made in New Zealand. In 2009, there were two mentions of Ogopogo. The first occurred in Season 3 of the TV series Monster Quest (where a search was conducted for the monster), and the second in The Venture Brothers. Apparently, the interest in this elusive creature of the deep will not end: in 2010 a sober search for the monster was conducted by Josh Gates for an episode of Destination Truth. In 2011, the beast was one of the mythical Canadian creatures referred to in James Alan Gardner’s All the Cool Monsters At Once short story. And in 2012, in one episode of television’s Lost Grid, the creature is again mentioned.
An organization called The Legend Hunters was formed by Bill Steciuk. In 1978, as he was driving along the west side of Okanagan Lake, Bill saw something moving in the lake. Jumping out of his car to get a better look, he was soon joined by a crowd of 20 or so other onlookers. Everyone, to their amazement, saw what seemed “to be a head with three black humps behind it”. This was all protruding out of the water, only 50 or 60 metres away. The assembled crowd watched this fantastic display for a minute, at which time the creature submerged. This was to stick out in Bill’s mind from that day.
In 1999, Bill began to gather together a group of serious researchers. They mounted their first expedition in August of the following year, and yet another a year later. Since that time, many of the documentaries that have been filmed about the creature have had Bill on board as a resident expert. Bill’s group took the search seriously, and to a scientific level, employing advanced technologies along the way, from R.O.V.s to sonar systems. They haven’t been disappointed: they have some limited footage of the creature, plus caught something approximately 15 metres long on sonar at one point.
So what might be special enough about Okanagan Lake that an elusive ‘sea’ creature has made it its home for perhaps hundreds of years?
The Lake in which Ogopogo is thought to make its dwelling is situated in the interior of southern British Columbia. It’s approximately 120 K long, 3.5 K wide, and at its deepest point, 235 metres. It’s a rather unique geological wonder. Its origin is said to include tertiary volcanic and sedimentary activity, fault rupturing, and deep erosion. It has been referred to as a fiord lake; in other words, at one time it may have been open to the sea.
The Okanagan region is spectacularly beautiful, so even if you don’t see Ogopogo, it’s well worth a visit.