Ogopogo, Real or Myth?

[A Photo of Ogopogo in Kelowna]

Over the years, many large unidentified sea creatures have washed up on ocean shores throughout the world. Certain fresh water bodies have also gained a reputation for containing sizable creatures often described as more prehistoric than anything else! The Lake Champlain monster is one example and of course "Nessie" of Scotland's Loch Ness is affectionately known around the world.

Canada's most famous water monster is Ogopogo of Lake Okanagan in the south central interior of British Columbia. Although Indian legends support a monster living in Okanagan Lake long before white men arrived in this country, Ogopogo is very much a present day phenomenon. Each year, sightings are reported of a creature some 20 to 50 feet long, with a horse shaped head and an undulating serpent like body! Okanagan Lake is about 80 miles long extending from Vernon at the north end to Penticton in the south with the fast growing city of Kelowna in the center. Sightings have been reported throughout the length of the lake but the monster appears to favour an area just south of Kelowna in waters near Peachland.

[The Beaches of Okanagan Lake]

The first recorded sighting by a caucasion was by Mrs. John Allison in 1872 and such instances have continued to this day with many credible, rational and sober people becoming absolute believers of Ogopogo! Over the ages, legend and first hand accounts both lead to the insinuation that the lake is not only all inclusive to fish and other common animals!

Native Indian folklore specifically places the lair of the lake monster which they called N'ha-a-itk, or lake demon, at a cave under Squally Point near Rattlesnake Island which is offshore from Peachland. The Natives would never paddle a canoe near this area without an offering because too often a storm would spring up and N'ha-a-itk would rise out of the waters to claim another life! When white settlers first came to this area in the mid 1800s, they were not superstitious but gradually changed their views with ongoing sightings of the monster. An early instance tells of two horses swimming behind a boat that were mysteriously pulled beneath the waves and the owner barely saving himself by cutting the rope attached to the horses! Today's sightings, often from modern power boats, indicate a much friendlier monster but still very large in size. It has been filmed a number of times but other than people agreeing there was something in the water, no absolute conclusions have been made. It is usually reported as dark blue, black or brown with a lighter underside. It can move with astounding speed but many sightings in calm weather have been made of the creature apparently feeding on either fish or aquatic weeds. People very close, between 50 and 100 feet, report seeing fins or feet on the animal.

A figment of the imagination you say? Not according to several authors who have investigated dozens of sightings over the years and interviewed many, many people. For more information, try the book "Ogopogo" by Arlene Gaal or "The Okanagan Mystery" by Mary Moon.

[Okanagan Lake Bridge from City Park]

Oh yes, am I a believer? You bet! I haven't been fortunate to have seen Ogopogo in the 20 years that I have lived in the Okanagan but I know people who have! I do follow an exercise routine most mornings by climbing up Knox Mountain which is immediately behind my house. At the top is a great viewpoint site, a gazebo built by the Kelowna City Parks department that offers an inspiring view of not only the city and the floating bridge, but miles and miles both up and down the lake.

I am ever hopeful that one day I will see that wave disturbance in calm waters typical of countless past Ogopogo sightings! We also intend to let you know of any future sightings as they are reported in the valley news media so keep on the lookout with us!

Your comments are welcome at dhaaheim at telus dot net.

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