It Lurks in the Depths of Pitt Lake

Posted by: John Kirk on April 3rd, 2006

What Lurks in the Depths of Pitt Lake?

We have a myriad of cryptids in British Columbia, but there is one that just does not get the coverage it deserves. I’m talking about the giant black salamanders of B.C.

Some would say what’s the big deal with giant salamanders? They are found far and wide in China and Japan and are called Megalobatrachus. Whilst I concede that the Japanese and Chinese salamanders are pretty big beasties at about four feet long, the ones that are reported from B.C. are positively monstrous and start at six feet and some are said to be as long as long as 12 feet in length. Barrie Alden is the sort of King of Giant Salamanders here in B.C. because he, more than anyone else, has endeavoured to catalogue sightings and has looked for the amphibians all over the southern part of the province and Vancouver Island. We will look at his role in this a little later.

My friend Loren Coleman has written about the Giant Salamanders of the Trinity Alps of California and I would not at all be surprised if the salamanders found in my home province and those in the USA are actually the same species or closely related. After all, we are all part of the same contiguous stretch of North America.

My first awareness of the giant black salamanders came about through the late Jim Clark, my friend and co-founder with myself and Paul Leblond of the BCSCC. Jim had heard from an old-timer named Al Surette that he had seen these amphibians in Pitt Lake while prospecting in the area. Surette was astonished to see for himself and hear from others, reports of a large species of salamander that was far larger than the largest indigenous salamander which only measures 12 inches. While the recognized local species of giant salamander is reddish-brown, Surette’s salamanders were pretty much a uniform jet black from snout to tail. Surette recalled them being over six feet in length and equally comfortable on land or in water.

After his own experiences with the Pitt Lake variety, Surette was made aware of another population of either the same or similar amphibians resident on Vancouver Island. The location: Nitnat Lake. While Surette’s stories from Nitnat Lake are sketchy, Barrie Alden’s are more fleshed out. While in his capacity as president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, Alden was contacted by an aboriginal elder who told him that while he was working on replacing a wooden bridge at Nitnat Lake, he and a group of fellow workers were shocked to discover a black salamander between five and six feet long under some old wooden beams. The men took off and never returned to the site.

Nitnat Lake is a curious sort of lake as it has a very narrow opening to the Pacific Ocean at the west end. I have heard that sightings of the archetypal lake monster have been made in this lake, but I wonder, really, if this is not your typical lake monster, but was actually a member of the Pacific megaserpent tribe known as Cadborosaurus that had temporarily inhabited the lake after venturing in from the ocean. So in addition to megaserpents in the lake we have giant black salamanders.

Alden’s diligence led him to locate other locales where black salamanders had been sighted. This included Cultus Lake near Chilliwack where the local First Nations people knew it as the Sla’ li’ kum. Some specimens had been seen in the lake and in the feeder streams leading into it. Not far from Cultus is Chilliwack Lake where in 1902 Charles Flood and Green Hicks were shown what a local native described as black alligators. They were lying in the mud and were about five feet long. Now it does not take a genius to deduce that alligators would not survive in B.C.’s coldwater lakes and, believe you me, Cultus and Chilliwack are as cold as you get, even at some points in our northern summer.

Other salamanders of huge size – by their standards – of course, have also been seen by a number of people on the Fraser River between Rosedale and Hope. However it is at Pitt Lake where most of the recent sightings have been. The most recent that has filtered our way was in late 2005, but it was the 2002 sighting by Pitt River Lodge owner, Dan Gerak, which has considerable credibility. Gerak is a wildlife enthusiast, outfitter, guide and knows his way around Pitt Lake like few others.

On two occasions in late 2002, Gerak caught site of what he described as a giant black salamander in Pitt Lake where the lake meets the Pitt River at a bottleneck known as the Narrows. Gerak first saw the head of the animal followed by the body. It was a salamander in excess of five feet long. Gerak contacted sasquatch researcher Ken Kristian who passed the news onto me. Kristian knows Gerak well and has vouched that he is a man of integrity and not given to making things up.

Gerak’s sighting was by a seasoned outdoorsmen familiar with all the fauna in and around Pitt Lake. He does not misidentify animals. Encouraged by Dan Gerak’s sighting and reports of another one at the tail end of 2005. I’ll be going up to Pitt Lake, as I have already done at Cultus Lake, to see if my cryptid/sasquatch research team colleagues and I can locate this creature.

Incidentally Pitt Lake has also produced a number of sasquatch sightings and curiously the capture of a large horned lizard that has not yet been classified in the realms of zoology. That is a story for another time here on Cryptomundo.

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.

9 Responses to “It Lurks in the Depths of Pitt Lake”

  1. Scarfe responds:

    I’m from BC, and I’d never heard of this before. I assume there has never been any documentation of these creatures? No photos, tracks, weird bones, etc?

  2. dauerad responds:

    In the late 70s, possible early 80s, I saw or possibly we caught while fishing (I don’t recall the details exactly) a black creature in the pond behind my grandparents home in Zephyrhills, FL. I believe it was almost a foot in length and my grandfather said it was a salamander. Except for size, it does sound like what’s described above. He cut the line or we moved away from where we saw it because it was dangerous according to him.

  3. Loren Coleman responds:

    The Hellbender of the southern USA is a close relative of the Asian Megalobatrachus, and, if discovered, the American Megalobatrachus.

    Hellbenders in the Ozarks, for example, show us these types of mountain stream- and lake-dwelling near-Megalobatrachus did migrate to North America.

    Cool post, John, and I hope it stimulates more reports on the Giant Salamanders of British Columbia, the NWT, and the Yukon.

  4. CryptoInformant responds:

    What, exactly, does Megalobachtrus eat?

  5. Mnynames responds:

    I’ve heard of the possibility of an American Megalobatrachus before, but not in B.C. Rather, the sightings I’ve heard of have always been from California. If both are reliable, we may be seeing the remnants of a Megalobatrachus population that once stretched quite a ways down the Pacific coast.

  6. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Mnynames (5) suggests remnant populations from along the west coast – but as scarfe asks (1) – are there no bones whatsoever which have been discovered?

    How about the bones of younger specimens? There should more likely be more of these, and they’d be better candidates as bird food (and subsequently bone dispersion) than 5 foot monsters.


  7. irwinsam responds:

    Wow, I have never heard of a black salamander. But it sure does sound very interesting. Hopefully with this report they will start discussing more about these creatures.

  8. dogu4 responds:

    What an interesting possibility. Since those other lakes are post glacial features too I can’t escape the idea of a species adapted to the kinds of conditions that you’d find in a valley glacial outwash; it’d make sense for it to be adapted to the cold and dark and those conditions ususally favor low metabolisms, long estevation, long lifespans, etc…. The base of a glacier as it sits on its moraine is a complex network of channels depositing nutritient rich silt as they sit there in a state of dynamic equilibrium with its local climate. hard to imagine a more inaccessible habitat to study. It would also seem that at one time the Frazier valley itself was a fjord and connected to the big ocean system.

  9. fmurphy1970 responds:

    Realise I’m coming late to this post, but thought folks might be interested to know that before the first photos of the Loch Ness Monster were published in 1933, many locals in the 19th century referred to it as the Loch Ness salamander. Interestingly a sighting by a diver who was out on the Loch near Fort Augustus saw a huge creature sitting on a ledge under water and described it as a gigantic frog. Also the Loch Ness monster has been sighted on a number of occasions on land. My theory is that it could be a giant salamander, which could survive quite easily in a cold glacial lake.

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