Ogopogo – The Demon of Okanagan Lake

The mysterious Lake Monster “Ogopogo” has been seen for centuries in Lake Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada. Described as serpentine in appearance, 40-60 feet in length, black to greenish black in color, with a horse like head, 3-6 humps, and a forked tail. The name Ogopogo may sound like it was given by the First Nations, but it was given its name by Davy Burnaby in the summer of 1924 at a lunch for the Vancouver Board of Trade in Vernon.

First Nations call the lake monster N’ha-A-itk, which means “the lake demon”. Their legend of Ogopogo tells us that there was once a man who became possessed by demons and his mind and heart was full of darkness. His people became frightened of his behavior and he became an outcast. One day, in a fury of rage the man attacked and killed Kan-He-Kan on the short of the lake. Kan-He-Kan was a revered and much loved wise man of his tribe, so fearful of how the people of his tribe would react to Kan-He-Kan’s murder, and what they might do to him for his crime, he ran away and hid.

The gods however, witnessed his crime and captured him. For his crime they turned him into a terrible serpent and cast him into the lake where he would remain forever, at the scene of his terrible crime. In memory of their beloved wise man they named the lake Kan-He-Kan (Okanagan). The legend tells that they believe the demon lives in a cave near Squally Point, so if they ever had to pass close to the area they would make sacrifices of a small animal to the demon, hopefully in exchange for safe passage through it’s territory.

A First Nation’s Chief, Tim Basket and his family had come to visit their neighboring tribe of The Westbank First Nations. He had learned that his hosts were going to appease the creature by making a sacrifice to it while he and his family traveled through the area around Squally Point. Tim Basket made it quite clear that he did not believe in any such creatures, and that making such sacrifices was an old and outdated custom. According to the legend, while Chief Basket and his family were crossing the lake near the water demon’s home, the monster appeared from the depths stirring up the water with its long tail. Chief Basket and his family are said to have disappeared in to the lake from the swirl the lake monster created. The Westbank First Nations tell this story as fact, not myth and Tim Basket and his family were real living people.

In 1854, while John MacDougal was crossing the lake in his canoe with a team of horses swimming along side with their reins tied to the canoe. The water began to swirl and his horses started being pulled under, MacDougal realizing that he was about to pulled down with his horses, grabbed a knife and cut the ropes barely escaping the sad fate of his horses.

In 1870, Mrs. Allison watched something that she described as looking like a huge tree trunk floating in the lake about a mile from the shore, but against the lake current. She estimated that it was 50 feet long and about 3 feet wide.

Ogopogo was often seen by log drivers in the 1880s. While making a raft of logs to send down the lake in 1880, Mr. Postill, a local log driver saw the lake monster surface from the depths of the lake and it seemed to be watching them while they built the raft. Another man who saw Ogopogo in the 1880s was so frightened by the creature that he ran across several rows of logs to the shore and kept running, he subsequently refused to return to work after the sighting.

With frequent sightings and reports of close encounters with Ogopogo, by the 1920s people where becoming afraid to cross the lake by ferry and demanded some kind of protection from the lake monster. In 1926 the government announced that a new ferry would be built and it would be equipped with monster repelling devices.

1926 was a busy year for Ogopogo who made an appearance at Mission Beach to at least thirty witnesses, who claimed they saw a large unknown serpent-like animal in the lake while they were traveling in their cars. 1926 was also the year that Ogopogo caught the attention of various media publications.

In July of 1934, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) were set the task of catching Ogopogo after several concerned citizens had voiced their concerns. Crowds of people would gather on the lake shore watching the R.C.M.P. and hoping to catch even a glimpse of the elusive lake demon Ogopogo.

In mid August of 1936, teenagers Andy Aikman (fifteen years old) and Geoff Tozer (thirteen years old) set off for a day of fishing after hearing a rumor about a Mr. Crighton catching sturgeon near Cedar Creek. Andy and Geoff both Sea Cadets, knew the area well after spending summers swimming in the lake and winters skiing across it. They began fishing near the mouth of Mission Creek, south of Cedar Creek Campsite and about one hundred yards from shore. Their boat drifted close to a large group of sea gulls who began screeching and suddenly flew into the air. Right behind them was the head and neck of a huge creature, it caught one of the gulls in mid air pulling down into the water. Andy described the creature as being as big around as a telephone pole, dark in color and fish like with a head more like a cow than a horse.

James Earl and his son David were working close to the lake in 1941 when Earl looked up at the water a saw the creature moving across the water with three humps, his son exclaimed “It’s Ogopogo”.

Vera Earl went to visit Mrs. Derrickson of Westbank First Nations who told her of an encounter with Ogopogo when she was younger, when First Nations would travel across the lake to Kelowna. She said that on one of their trips to Kelowna, there were three Ogopogo’s that tried to turn over their boat, they of course turned the boat around as quickly as possible and headed back to shore. They didn’t cross the lake again for a long time.

In July 2, 1947 Ogopogo made an appearance to several boaters, a witness of the incident described a thirty foot long creature with five humps and what appeared to be a forked tail just beneath the water’s surface. The creature didn’t appear to pay any attention to the onlookers as it dove and re-surfaced several times before it finally disappeared.

A Mr. Millar was enjoying a day on the water in 1959 when he saw a snake like head and several humps above the water, it was swimming as fast as his boat at fifteen or sixteen knots (17-19 mph).

The first legitimate video evidence of Ogopogo was taken by Art Folden in 1968. He shot the video as he was driving along Okanagan Lake and happened to look over at the lake and see a large object in the water. He quickly pulled over, grabbed his video camera and began to film the creature. The film shows a large object in the water that appears to dive in and out of the surface of the water until it submerges into deeper water. Over the years the film has been scrutinized and subjected to a battery tests, including enhancements by specialists and the video appears to show (quite clearly) a large dark object of about forty feet long moving across the surface of the water.

There have been more then a few occasions where Ogopogo has chosen to remind everyone that its still around by making a huge interdiction, much like the sightings in 1926 and 1947.

Ogopogo reminded everyone again with an appearances in 1978 when Bill Steciuk was crossing over Okanagan Lake in his car and spotted something in the lake. He pulled over and got out to look and much to his surprise all the cars behind him also pulled over, their occupants hurried over to watch a creature that was reportedly sixty feet long with a large head and three black humps. More then twenty witnesses watched Ogopogo for several minutes before it once again disappeared beneath the water leaving a large wake across the surface.

Throughout 1980 and 1981 several water skiers at different places across the Lake witnessed Ogopogo and a D. Jones claimed that Ogopogo followed him for several seconds while he was on his water skis. “I just happened to look behind me“, he said “and I saw his huge head about twenty feet behind me, I wanted to get into the boat but I didn’t want to stop either. I yelled at my uncle to go faster and when I looked back it was gone”.

In 1989 while standing on the banks of the lake, hunting guide Earnie Giroux and his wife claim to have seen, and had a good look at a fifteen foot long creature that swam gracefully through the water. In that same area, later the same year, a Mr. Ken Chaplin reported seeing a similar creature in the lake.

In 1992 while vacationing with her family near Okanagan Lake, Jane Thomas from Pennsylvania claims to have seen a large snake like creature on three separate occasions over the period of a week. Each of the creature sightings occurred early in the morning when the water was calm and there were just a few boats on the lake.

In 2000 a husband and wife who were boating near Rattlesnake Island claim to have watched a creature with a large head and neck swimming through the water for several minutes.

Also in 2000, marathon swimmer Daryl Ellis swam the eighty mile lake to raise money for cancer research and reported that two creatures had followed beneath him. He called to his spotter boat and quickly climbed into the boat. After a few minutes of not seeing anything, he returned to the water to continue his swim. As he swam past Rattlesnake Island, he claims the creatures followed him for several minutes before disappearing again. According to Mr. Ellis, one creature was 20-30 feet long the other appeared to be somewhat smaller. Later as he swam near Okanagan Lake’s floating bridge, another creature appeared within nine meters of him which he said had a large eye the size of a grapefruit.

The accounts listed above are but a few of the eyewitness reports of Ogopogo, and many cryptozoologists have come to the conclusion that Ogopogo is an extinct whale called a Basilosarus.

Regardless of what it may or may not be, Ogopogo is protected by federal law under the fisheries act. On September 6, 1969 the Minister of the Environment, Bruce Stachan enacted legislation to protect Ogopogo, it is illegal to hunt or hurt Ogopogo in any way.

“No one shall hunt, kill fish or marine animals by any means of rocket, explosive materials or explosive projectiles or shells.” Ogopogo is specifically protected under Provincial Law under the Wildlife Act.

To capture Ogopogo legally one must apply for a special permit from the department of fisheries but don’t hold your breath waiting on it, its highly unlikely that you would ever get permission to remove Ogopogo from its home in Okanagan Lake.

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