Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ogopogo...Canada's Nessie

"Late Winter Sunrise, Lake Okanagan" photo by Extemporalist (Own work)  via Wikimedia Commons
If you're exploring British Columbia, Canada and someone looks at you with wide eyes, pointing toward Lake Okanagan and crying, "Ogopogo!" they probably don't mean "Oh, go pogo," as in a grab the nearest pogo stick and hop around. They are, more than likely, alerting you to the fact that a lake monster has made an appearance and you best skidaddle or...grab your camera. Ogopogo is Canada's version of Scotland's famous Loch Ness Monster.

Just an hour's drive north of Oroville, Washington, the British Columbian town of Penticton anchors the southern end of Lake Okanagan an impressive  body of water snaking its way 135 kilometers (83 miles) north toward Vernon. As is common among many of the lakes harboring the world's legendary water monsters, Lake Okanagan is very deep--800 meters (2,624 feet.) The lake sits among the magnificent natural beauty of glacial mountains as well as miles of beaches and parks lining its shores.

Unlike Scotland's monster which goes by the affectionate pet name of "Nessie" and is thought of as a
Photo of Lake Okanagan First Nations People (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
shy, benevolent creature, Ogopogo is the stuff of fearsome legend and nightmares. The native population of Canada, its First Nations people, have long told stories of attacks by Ogopogo. An account from 1860 tells of a First Nations person who lost his horses to the ravenous monster.  He was walking them along the lakeshore when Ogopogo (which First Nations people call Naitaka--Lake Demon) suddenly emerged from the water and snatched his horses away. Because of that incident, First Nations people often kept a small live animal in their boats when crossing the lake so they could throw it overboard to appease the monster if it were to rear its terrifying head.
"Rattlesnake Island" photo by Extemporalist (Own work)  via Wikimedia Commons

Ogopogo has been described as resembling a giant log, about 15 meters (50 feet) long, or a finned, round-headed whale. With possible footprints found on its surface, a small island due east of Peachland, British Columbia is thought to be the monster's terrestrial home. It's name is Rattlesnake Island but is known locally as Monster Island.

1990 Canadian Postage Stamp
The fact that Lake Okanagan's monster lacks Nessie's cuddly perception does not keep Canada from honoring it. An artist's portrayal of Ogopogo was featured on a 1990 postage stamp. I wonder what kind of letters those stamps graced. Probably not Christmas cards or Valentines!

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


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