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Legends of lake monsters have existed around the world for hundreds of years. Lake monsters are a cornerstone of cryptozoology, the study of legendary hidden and unknown creatures. Read on to learn more about these mysterious creatures that purportedly live in these 16 lakes around the world.
1 – Loch Ness, Scotland
We’ve all heard of “Nessie”, the famous lake monster that lives in the depths of Scotland’s Loch Ness. Although the legend of Nessie dates back to the 12th century, during the time of Merlin the wizard, this sea serpent rose to international fame after a reported sighting in 1933.
Although her existence has yet to be proven, Nessie is alive in the imaginations of many believers in Scotland and around the world.
2 – Killarney Lakes, Ireland
The Killarney Lakes are one of Europe’s top tourist destinations. Muckross Lake, or Middle Lake, is the deepest of the Killarney Lakes, with depths plunging to 250 feet.
Although legends of lake monsters date back to the Irish Druids, “Muckie” is a lake monster with a much more recent origin. Fish surveys conducted in 2003 by the Irish Char Conservation Group turned up sonar evidence of a serpentine USO, unidentified swimming object, about 80 meters (262 feet) in length.
3 – Lake Memphremagog, Vermont and Quebec
“Memphre” is the alleged 50-foot long serpent that prowls Lake Memphremagog’s depths. There have been more than 200 documented sightings of this lake monster since the 18th century, the most recent sighting in 2005.
Thankfully, Memphre is a docile lake creature in this 27-mile long lake that spans the border of Vermont and Quebec. Memphemagog derives from the Algonkian word for “big expanse of water.”
4 – Lake Iliamna, Alaska
Glacial Lake Iliamna is the largest lake in Alaska, measuring 80 miles long and 25 miles wide. The lake’s name originated with the Tanaina Indians, who believed that a giant blackfish lurked beneath the surface – and could bite holes in canoes.
Other beasts reported to live in Lake Iliamna, referred to as Illies, look like giant fish measuring up to 30 feet long.
Iliamna’s creatures gained wider circulation in the 1940s when pilots began sighting monsters from the air. Lake Iliamna is also distinguished for its resident population of freshwater seals, one of only two colonies of freshwater seals in the world.
5 – Okanagan Lake, British Columbia
“Ogopogo,” the lake demon in British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake, is perhaps as popular as the Loch Ness monster. Covering more than 86,000 acres with depths plunging to more than 750 feet, Okanagan Lake gives Ogopogo plenty of room to hide.
This lake monster’s first sightings date back to 1872, when the area was colonized by European settlers. Since then, Ogopogo has captured the imagination of authors, film makers, TV writers, and video game makers.
6 – Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis, Manitoba
Not to be outdone by Ogopogo, two more lake monsters inhabit the vastness of two glacial “sister” lakes in Manitoba: “Manipogo” resides in 1,142,400-acre Lake Manitoba, and “Winnipogo” lives in 1,328,000-acre Lake Winnipegosis.
With the advent of modern transport to the lakes in the early 1900s, sightings by outsiders of dragon-like lake monsters fueled local legends of serpentine creatures. Because both lakes are remnants of prehistoric Lake Agassiz, the question is whether the lake monsters are the same or different creatures.
Regardless of the answer, modern-day visitors to Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis will enjoy a wealth of outdoor recreation during winter and summer.
Read more about Lake Manitoba an Lake Winnipegosis.
7 – Lake Champlain, Vermont, New York, Quebec
Bordering New York, Vermont, and Quebec, Lake Champlain is a four-season vacation wonderland. Before the arrival of Europeans, Iroquois Nation legends described a horned serpent lurking beneath the lake’s deep, cold waters.
Since then, there have been more than 300 sightings of “Champ,” Lake Champlain’s monster, dating back to Samuel de Champlain in 1609.
Champ is a friendly monster, though, reportedly shy and easily scared off by disturbances in the water. A 1977 photo, featured in Time Magazine and the New York Times, is the best evidence of Champ’s existence.
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8 – Lake Willoughby, Vermont
Lake Champlain isn’t the only Vermont lake with a monster. Glaciers carved out Lake Willoughby between spectacular Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah, with lake depths exceeding 300 feet.
The first sightings of “Willy” date back to 1868 when a 12-year-old boy killed a 23-foot eel-like monster. More recent sightings describe a serpentine creature with humps on its back.
Although Willy’s exact nature is unknown, what is known is that Lake Willoughby, a true gem in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, produces some of the largest lake trout in Vermont.
9 – Devil’s Lake, North Dakota
Unlike Champ, the lake monster in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, is not so friendly. A favorite Sioux legend describes a lake monster that reportedly wiped out an entire army and killed all of the lake’s fish.
However, there’s nothing evil about 122,000-acre Devil’s Lake. Its name comes from the Native American word “Miniwaukan,” meaning “Spirit Water” or “Enchanted Water.”
Early explorers translated Miniwaukan incorrectly into “Bad Spirit.” This mistranslation combined with Sioux legend to solidify the moniker Devil’s Lake.
10 – Lake Manitou, Indiana
Even America’s Midwest is not immune to lake monsters. The name “Manitou” derives from the Potawatomi Native American word for both “good spirit” and “evil spirit.”
The Potawatomi tribe fished and hunted in this area for 150 years. They believed that the waters of Lake Manitou harbored a monster fish or serpent with supernatural powers.
Legend reports that the Serpent of the Manitou devoured all the fish after arriving from Lake Michigan, and drove away wild game by shooting out serpentine tentacles to drag the animals into the water.
Native American prayers banished the serpent, and out of gratitude they named the lake after the Great Spirit. Lake Manitou grew into a popular resort destination over the past century. Today, residents and vacationers continue to enjoy this 775-acre lake.
11 – Flathead Lake, Montana
The Flathead Lake Monster, also known as Flathead Nessie, is reported to be a whale-like creature, 20-40 feet long with piercing ebony eyes. Intermittent sightings have been recorded since 1889.
The monster has plenty of room to hide in the lake’s expansive 122,560 acres (191 square miles). Flathead Lake is a one-stop destination for a full complement of land and water sports in Montana’s spectacular Big Sky Country.
12 – Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan and Manitoba
Reindeer Lake was named for the caribou that used to migrate to its shores during winter. The sprawling lake covers 1,500,000 acres and is home to captivating geological formations, including Deep Bay, a water-filled crater created by a meteorite that struck 140 million years ago.
Deep Bay harbors the Reindeer Lake monster. According to Native American legend, the monster ate reindeer as they fell through the ice.
Whether a monster resides in Reindeer Lake is uncertain, but what is certain is that visitors will find an outdoor paradise along the sparsely developed lake shoreline spanning Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
13 – Thetis Lake, British Columbia
Unlike serpentine creatures that inhabit other lakes, the Thetis Lake monster is rumored to be a scaly, gilled humanoid similar to the creature featured in the movie “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
Able to breathe on land and underwater, the monster’s first sighting was in 1972. Throughout the years there have been reports of strange footprints and large scales, but no one has yet photographed the mysterious monster.
Located near the city of Victoria, Thetis Lake is the main attraction of the Thetis Lake Regional Park.
14 – Lake Tarpon, Florida
“Tarpie” is the reptilian monster that resides in Florida’s 2,529-acre Lake Tarpon. Local legend describes this 10-20 foot long monster as consuming more than his fair share of local wildlife, though most reports of Tarpie are tongue-in-cheek.
Located 10 miles west of Tampa, popular Lake Tarpon is called the “Jewel of Pinellas County.”
15 – Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
Not to be outdone by their North American counterparts, lakes in Central and South America claim their share of lake monsters, too.
Lake Arenal (Lago Arenal) in Costa Rica is a natural lake that was expanded to 21,000 acres when the country’s electric company dammed it in 1979, 11 years after the first major eruption of the Arenal Volcano in 400 years.
Locals report sightings of a 30-meter cow-headed serpent (and occasional UFOs).
Lake Arenal is a premier windsurfing, kite boarding, and sailboarding destination. This scenic lake is surrounded by waterfalls, volcanic hot springs, and caves. The Arenal Volcano towers 5,358 feet above sea level at the eastern end of Lake Arenal.
16 – Gutierrez Lake, Argentina
The Lake District within Argentina’s famed Patagonia region is home to “Nahuelito,” an ancient snake-like creature. The first sighting of Nahuelito in Gutierrez Lake (Lago Gutierrez) was in 1938 – with intermittent sightings continuing to the present.
Surrounded by stunning Patagonian mountain peaks, Gutierrez Lake is one of the most visited lakes in Argentina. This 4,052-acre glacial lake is part of the Nahuel Huapi National Park, the oldest national park in Argentina.
Lake Gutierrez is a four-season vacation destination, famed for its spectacular summer and winter sports.