Does a legendary lake monster swim through the waters of Okanagan Lake? The legend of the Ogopogo has long been debated by both locals and visitors of the Okanagan. The origin of this legend dates back to before white settlement when the First Nations people claimed to have seen this mysterious monster. The first recorded sighting by a Caucasian was in 1872 by Mrs. John Allision and from then the sightings have continued to occur yearly.
The Ogopogo is believed to be a large sea serpent 12-15m in length that inhabits the deepest parts of Okanagan Lake; only surfacing on rare occasions. The old legends of the Ogopogo, or Naitaka meaning Water God or Lake Demon, claim it to be a demon possessed man who murdered “Old Kan-He-Kan”, a well respected local man. The lake name, Okanagan, was chosen as a remembrance to the man. The Indian Gods punished the murderer by forcing him to live forever at the scene of his crime by turning him into the lake serpent we have come to know. His lair was believed to be a cave under Squally Point near Rattlesnake Island which is just offshore from Peachland. Avoidance of that area was necessary because if one were to paddle near it, their lives were sure to be ended by Naitaka. Sacrifices of small animals were carried by canoe to his lair in hopes of pleasing him so their own lives would be spared. Recent sightings have depicted the Ogopogo has a friendly sea creature who swims harmlessly down Okanagan Lake, occasionally making an appearance to keep his legend alive. So does this creature really exist?
According to many people throughout the years it most certainly does. There have been many recorded sightings of the Ogopogo throughout history. In 1949 Dr. Underhill claimed to have seen several humps moving through the water where the Kelowna bridge is now located. He emphasized that there were no boats present and that the lake was calm. On July 13th 1997, three people on a houseboat said they saw a 30 foot geyser on the lake and underneath the water they could see a large dark object. This story goes along with the rumours that the Ogopogo is a prehistoric whale, which is supported by an old story from the 1920’s. Apparently bones were taken from Okanagan Lake and identified in Victoria as whale bones, then returned to the Okanagan as part of a museum display, but mysteriously disappeared. Not a year goes by without at least one or two claimed sightings of this lake monster. Perhaps the next time you are sitting by Okanagan Lake enjoying a nice calm day on the water, you should stare a little harder on the surface of the water. Maybe if you stare long enough you too will see the humps of the legendary Ogopogo and become an unwavering believer.