Chinese Water Dragons and the Aquatic Cryptids of Canada

Posted by: John Kirk on June 26th, 2006

An international paper with a paper edition has published a pretty informative article about Chinese Water Dragons and their correlation to the various aquatic cryptids of Canada and I must say I really enjoyed this one. There’s plenty to read about Ogopogo and the other lake monsters of Canada in the online edition of Epoch Times. The writer has also added some commentary on what he describes as the Thetis Lake Monster. Here in British Columbia the beastie is know as the Thetis Lake Gill Man and I will touch on this mysterious being on Cryptomundo at some point in the near future.

Dragons in the Water

WHAT LURKS IN THERE? Children play by the shore of Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie, Ontario. Legend has it that the bay is home to the sea monster known as Kempenfelt Kelly. No country in the world has more lakes rumoured to house lake monsters than Canada. (Jason Loftus/The Epoch Times)

This what the EPOCH TIMES had to say about our watery monstrosities:

Dragon boat festivals are once again underway all across Canada, and while tens of thousands of people will attend the events, very few are familiar with the ancient history of the tradition.

The festivals, or rituals, started approximately 2500 years ago in southern China along the banks of the Yangtze River and were originally carried out to please the Asian water dragon deity. The rituals often included human sacrifices and violent battles between crew members of competing boats who hurled stones and struck opponents with bamboo sticks. It was considered to be unlucky if there wasn’t at least one drowning during the course of the event.

The Asian water dragon is not alone in its class. In Canada alone there are many stories and eyewitness accounts of aquatic beasts comparable to the Chinese water dragon. These aquatic beastie boys and girls have been given names; Ogopogo, Champ, Manipogo, Kempenfelt Kelly, The Cadboro Bay Sea Serpent, The Thetis Lake Monster, The Lake Erie Monster, The Wendigo, The New Brunswick Lake Utopia Monster — the list goes on.

The number of eye witness accounts of these underwater monstrosities coming to the surface is staggering, yet even with the help of giant nets, submarines, underwater cameras, sonar, and crews of observers no solid evidence has been ever been obtained to prove that these monsters exist.

The most famous of Canadian aquatic beasts is undoubtedly Ogopogo of Lake Okanagan, located in the south central interior of British Columbia. According to numerous sightings each year, Ogopogo is 20 to 50 feet long with a horse shaped head and snake-like body and favours an area of the lake south of Kelowna near Peachland. The indigenous people of BC knew of the monster which they called N’ha-a-itk, or Lake Demon, long before European settlers came to Canada. They placed the monster’s lair at a cave under Squally Point near Rattlesnake Island. According to Ogopogo expert Arlne Gaal, the First Nations’ custom of offering a small animal to appease the lake demon when travelling near the lair was adopted by fearful European settlers who also patrolled the shoreline, in case the monster attacked.

Lake Champlain, a lake mostly within the borders of the United States but stretching north into Quebec, is home to another oceanic oddity: Champ. There have been over 240 sightings of Champ, the first of which, by Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney in 1883, reported a gigantic water serpent over 25 feet in length which rose five feet out of the water. Other eyewitnesses present at this event were close enough to clearly see round white spots inside the creature’s mouth.

Another beast from Quebec goes by the name of Memphre. Lake Memphremagog, home to Memphre, stretches 33 miles from Newport, Vermont to Magog, Quebec. There has been an average of eight sightings per year of this particular prehistoric pond dweller, the fist of which dates back to 1816. One of the most compelling recent sightings was reported in July 1996 when four people in two boats saw a 20 foot long creature with several humps swim approximately 50 yards between their boats and the shore. A similar sighting of the beast took place three hours before and was seen by three persons standing on shore. To date there have been more than 215 reported and documented sightings

Manipogo, of Lake Manitoba, has a history dating back to 1908. There have been numerous sightings of the creature which is rumoured to be snake-like in appearance with a long tubular body and a head comparable to a sheep’s. In the 1950’s the Manitoba Government launched an official expedition to search for the serpent to no avail. A photograph taken by two fishermen in 1962 showed what they said was an image of Manipogo, but was not clear enough to be considered verifiable proof.

Thetis Lake is a very popular swimming destination for Vancouver Islanders during the summertime, and is also the reputed home of the Thetis Lake Monster, a fact widely unknown among swimmers. This freakishly scary fiend of a fish is quite different from most lake monsters in that it has a humanoid body similar to that of the beast from the film The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In 1972, two teenagers on the shore of the lake said they witnessed a scaly, humanoid form suddenly rise from the water. The two teens turned and took off, but the creature caught up and cut one the boy’s hands with a barbed fin on its skull.

There are many theories that attempt to explain these unsolved modern mysteries. Many believe that the monsters are relics from another time; prehistoric beasts who survived the ages. Some say the creatures are spiritual guardians who protect their sacred aquatic turf. Others believe that they are an undiscovered species of long necked seal. There has been much speculation that the monsters are actually plesiosaurs; aquatic dinosaurs from the Triassic period (over 200 million years ago). Still, most people are sceptical and believe that the beasts are nothing more than floating logs, strange reflections off of waves, or flat out hoaxes.

One notable similarity among these elusive entities can be found in the places they are rumoured to dwell. Almost all of the river and lake systems that the monsters call their home are, or have been at some point, connected to the sea. They also all harbour, or have harboured migratory fish, and are deep, cold bodies of water.

So, if your summer plans this year include outdoor water sports, you might want to think twice before jumping in — you never know what might be waiting for you just below the surface.

What I like about this article is that it is very accurate as far as details go and it is gratifying to see that the writer has done a fair degree of research and due diligence. All too often in the world of cryptozoology writers rehash the same error laden fables over and over again, Thereby perpetuating myths and further clouding the waters – pardon the pun – when we need them to be clarified. The Epoch Times article is one of the best for accuracy I have seen for some time.

I tip my hat to writer Alister Mason for a job well done.

John Kirk About John Kirk
One of the founders of the BCSCC, John Kirk has enjoyed a varied and exciting career path. Both a print and broadcast journalist, John Kirk has in recent years been at the forefront of much of the BCSCC’s expeditions, investigations and publishing. John has been particularly interested in the phenomenon of unknown aquatic cryptids around the world and is the author of In the Domain of the Lake Monsters (Key Porter Books, 1998). In addition to his interest in freshwater cryptids, John has been keenly interested in investigating the possible existence of sasquatch and other bipedal hominids of the world, and in particular, the Yeren of China. John is also chairman of the Crypto Safari organization, which specializes in sending teams of investigators to remote parts of the world to search for animals as yet unidentified by science. John travelled with a Crypto Safari team to Cameroon and northern Republic of Congo to interview witnesses among the Baka pygmies and Bantu bushmen who have sighted a large unknown animal that bears more than a superficial resemblance to a dinosaur. Since 1996, John Kirk has been editor and publisher of the BCSCC Quarterly which is the flagship publication of the BCSCC. In demand at conferences, seminars, lectures and on television and radio programs, John has spoken all over North America and has appeared in programs on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, TLC, Discovery, CBC, CTV and the BBC. In his personal life John spends much time studying the histories of Scottish Clans and is himself the president of the Clan Kirk Society. John is also an avid soccer enthusiast and player.

16 Responses to “Chinese Water Dragons and the Aquatic Cryptids of Canada”

  1. Ole Bub responds:

    Good morning John….thank you for sharing this article….

    Finally a Canadian aquatic I can embrace….the “Canadian Creature from the Blue Lagoon”…perhaps a fishquatch…

    Cryptic sea creatures like Caddy and sasquatch is about all I can handle…call me skeptical…concerning any land locked large aquatic critter especially in the northern climes…

    all the best…

    ole bub and the dawgs

  2. Ranatemporaria responds:

    Interesting and informative article. I’m also interested ole bub why you think northern climate would detract credibility from lake cryptids. Larger animals with greater body mass are, as per Bergman’s rule, better adapted to cooler colder climes due to the beneficial mass/surface area relationships. Also the general biomass of these lakes is often higher at the basal Plantonic/algael level meaning higher productivity than some more southern examples. It’s also interesting how they state in the article that many of the water bodies are linked to the sea. I think another piont often mislaboured is the “connection to the sea”. I belive in general most large lakes lie on a river system or course that will or has linked to the sea, those that are home to cryptids are not that special in this sense.

  3. Tabitca responds:

    paleantologists have said the fossil record shows that plesiosaurs lived in the seas around antartica when the world was freezing and there was ice in the water. If they could adapt to freezing temperatures with their more primitive metabolic processes then i think it says alot for more modern creatures adapting and living in cold lakes. I am not saying lake creatures are plesiosaurs ,as I don’t believe they are, but if evolution and predator/ prey relationships have taught us anything, it’s that life adapts.
    as you often say ole Bub .seeing is believing..well i’ve seen and I believe.

  4. Ranatemporaria responds:

    Good Point Tabica. I also worry when people asume that cryptids are “Living dinosaurs” conveniently forgetting the many millions of years that have passed in between then and now, during which the laboratory that is natural selection could have produced a myriad of adaptations. Therefore it is unlikly but not impossible that a a given species (e.g. Plesiosaur) would have remained unchanged for that long. Its more likley however that current animals including lake cryptids, are the descendants of such creatures.

  5. Ole Bub responds:

    Having never seen a lake monster….I’m compelled to take your word for it….it’s all I can do to stay abreast of sasquatchery…though I like the idea of the Creature from the Blue Lagoon…

    From memory….are not some these lakes very young geologically…resulting from repeated periods of glaciation.

    My skepticism is a function of my ignoranace…all we have in Oklahoma is the occasional gator, bull shark or giant catfish…

    seeing is believing….

    ole bub and the dawgs

  6. fredfacker responds:

    Having canoed through the boundary waters I never saw any cryptid lake monsters, but I can say that the fish in that northern climate get much larger than what you’d find in a Texas or Oklahoma lake (aside from maybe the huge catfish.) I don’t know why a cryptid would or wouldn’t be adapted to a northern climate. It’s probably a better location to stay undiscovered as the cold keeps people out of the water most of the year.

  7. stonelk responds:

    Stories about lake monsters always remind me of old european legends of idleworms. The way I remember it an idleworm was a snake or eel like creature some times depicted with short legs or stiff fins that they were able to walk with. They were migratory and likely to turn up in a pond or the village well. Perhaps the idleworm was the offspring of the european cousins of the north american lake monster. I have searched the net for stories on the idleworm legend but cant find any. Any one else heard of a idleworm?

  8. Ranatemporaria responds:

    As discussed here numerous times before, eels (i know of species Aguila anguila/vulgaris) in europe, travel over land on wet nights and dark days to look for new waters in search of food and to return to mating grounds, this could be the scource of stories. There are also very similar stories from the east, this being my favorite.

  9. TemplarKnight21c responds:

    I don’t really recall hearing a version of the Wendigo story that involved it being a lake monster, but ok. Also, I remember reading two separate articles from Fortean Times about supposed dragons from Asia, specifically China, I believe, that were photographed. One from a plane, the other from the ground.

  10. stonelk responds:

    Thank you Ranatemporaria,
    That could very well explain the souce of the legends of the idleworm.

  11. twblack responds:

    I have to agree with OLE BUD I am a little on the sketpic side when it comes to lake monsters. I am in no way saying they do not exist for I have never seen one and my skeptcism is of ignoranace also. But with a lake monster only having so much space so to speak and to have all the radar and teck. stuff we have today well leaves me with more skepticism then most cryptid things. I hope they are for real but over time no bodies. If something of 25-50ft has to die sometime and to think no remains would wash up to the shore in a lake? With BF he has so much more space that when death comes I can understand no body being found the old story their has never been a dead bear found out in the woods is a good example of why no body of BF has been found.Well I could give a 100 things here as to why I am a little skeptical on lake monsters but I hope they do exist!

  12. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    We had stories from divers working on the Greenup County (Kentucky) Dam across the Ohio River of refrigerator length catfish. I’ve personally seen a catfish taken from the Ohio River that measured nearly 6 feet in length (I was just a kid, but my uncle caught it, and its tail hung over the tailgate of his compact pickup truck).

    While I haven’t seen any eels since I was a kid (which I imagine has something to do with septic tank run-off and other pollution in those eastern Kentucky streams I played in as a youth), between the big snapping turtles, giant catfish and nearly lobster size crawfish I’ve seen in my day, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that there were some oversized eels or other “giant” examples of known creatures in northern lakes (or of an altogether unknown creature.)

    As for “lake monster” bodies washing to shore, if I may play devil’s advocate, the problem there is that, like any other living creature, a lake monster would sink when it first died. Look at a dead fish in a fish tank. The fish sinks first, then, after the body begins to bloat, it floats to the surface.

    However, say something starts eating on this dead fish (like another fish in the aquarium). If this happens, the bloating effect is negated because the gases created by the body can escape through all those little bites, rather than swelling the body and causing it to float to the surface.

    What I’m getting at is, a big piece of protein like that, while it surely isn’t going to be eaten in a single setting, is going to get nibbled at and torn to pieces.

    So, to paraphrase the immortal Don Ameche “Ogopogo eats his dead.”

  13. Ranatemporaria responds:

    I worry some times that this site is sliding towards BF and away from other issues… but it might just be my favoritism towards the aquatic!?

  14. shumway10973 responds:

    of course there can be large aquatic creatures in the northern climates. Some of those lakes actually keep a constant temp. remember that most legends and myths begin some where, usually beginning in fact. There have been other reports in America’s deep south of reptilian bipeds attacking people, and doing things that no man in a costume could do. true, I was taught that we were the only biped, but we are still finding new creatures all the time. Plus don’t forget that we haven’t even touched the surface of discovering what is under the water.

  15. crunchyfrog responds:

    Hello All you cryptofanatics

    I am just new to this group and find it very interesting. I am glad that canada is known for something more than our inability to keep the stanley cup here.

    As for lake monsters, I believe that I may have an answer to the eyewitness accounts of great dark shapes underwater. We use to have a cottage on lake huron, when I was a kid. I remenber one particular morning when I spotted a large swirling black mass in the shallows. When I approached it, I found it to be made up of hundreds or thousands of juvenile fish. I was not sure, but I believe they were catfish. So some of these dark shapes maybe unusually large shoals of bait or baby fish. I believe in a back issue of the great fortean times there is a picture from Australia of this event that I saw, and it sure looked like some kind of large beast.

  16. Mnynames responds:

    I’ve never heard of an Idleworm, but your description sounds like the Scandinavian Lindorm or Lindworm, which some early researchers speculated might be land-dwelling, juvenile sea serpents. 2 recurring features in tales of the Lindworm were its very large size (Often preying on cattle) and its horrible stench upon being killed.

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