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15 Famous Lake Monsters of North America

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With interests in science and nature, the author explores topics from a unique and sometimes controversial perspective.

Beautiful Lake Champlain looks peaceful enough, but some say a monster swims beneath its placid waters.

Beautiful Lake Champlain looks peaceful enough, but some say a monster swims beneath its placid waters.

If you live in the United States or Canada, don’t think you need to travel all the way to Scotland to find yourself a lake monster. Nessie may be the most famous of the lot, but there are plenty of North American aquatic beasts lurking in the depths of some of the continent’s largest lakes.

Many of these creatures share common features, not only with each other but with lake monsters from around the world. Does the fact that the same types of creatures are spotted in different bodies of water all around the globe lend any credibility to the sightings and stories of lake monsters?

These could be unknown animals yet to be discovered, or creatures once thought extinct but now hidden in the aquatic depths. It’s anyone’s guess, but it is certain that for hundreds of years people have claimed to see strange creatures in the water.

In fact, before you start your tour of the lake monsters of North America, consider this: In most cases, long before European explorers came to the continent, the indigenous Native Americans were well aware of unusual creatures dwelling in local lakes. Depending on their particular legend they may have seen them as evil or good, spirits, or real. But they believed they were there.

Below you’ll find a listing of some of the most frequently spotted creatures, divided into three sections. Canadian beasts are found in the glacial lakes mostly in the eastern and central parts of the country.

American lake monsters are less common and found in various bodies of water throughout the US. Finally, some bodies of water straddle the US/Canadian border, and here you’ll find some of the more interesting beasts.

You will notice that, with only a few exceptions, these cryptids fall into one of two categories:

  • Loch Ness Monster-types: These are creatures with long necks, long tails, and flippers. Some researchers believe they may be some kind of relic plesiosaur.
  • Sea Serpents: Long and snakelike, with large heads, often with humps on their backs. Explanations for these sightings include an undocumented and huge species of eel.

Good luck with your search. Don’t forget to bring binoculars and a very large fishnet!

List of Lake Monsters in the USA and Canada

Here is a list of the most famous lake monsters in North America:

  1. Raystown Ray
  2. Wally (Wallowa Lake Monster)
  3. Willy
  4. The Beast of Busco
  5. Tahoe Tessie
  6. Sharlie
  7. Memphre
  8. Mussie
  9. Cressie
  10. Ogopogo
  11. Igopogo
  12. Manipogo
  13. Champ
  14. Ugly Merman (Merbeing)
  15. Bessie

Read on to learn more about each of these legendary aquatic cryptids.

Lake Monsters in the United States

Raystown Ray

Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania

Reports are mainly of a large, dark figure swimming just beneath the water’s surface, and a long neck with a small head extending above. Sightings go back for a few decades, and there are plenty in recent times. Cryptozoologists are dubious of the creature because Raystown Lake is a man-made reservoir.

Wally (Wallowa Lake Monster)

Wallowa Lake, Oregon

A long, snakelike beastie, possibly with horns atop its head. Accounts go back at least to the mid-1800s, and Native Americans were well aware of the creature. Unlike some lake creatures, according to legend, this one is carnivorous and possibly dangerous. Researchers believe it may be a species of large, freshwater eel, or a very large fish.


Lake Willoughby, Vermont

A snakelike creature over 20 feet in length. According to lore, back in 1868, a 23-foot “water-snake” was killed by a 12-year-old boy. Willy has since been spotted by divers, and people along the shore. Some think Willy may turn out to be a large species of eel.

The Beast of Busco

Fulk Lake, Indiana

A massive, 500-pound snapping turtle was first reported in 1898, then again in 1948. Despite multiple eye-witness accounts, hundreds of photo attempts, and even the draining of the lake, the creature was never found.

Some researchers think serpent-like North American monsters may actually be very large American eels, or perhaps a new species altogether.

Some researchers think serpent-like North American monsters may actually be very large American eels, or perhaps a new species altogether.

Tahoe Tessie

Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California

A huge serpent, possibly up to 80 feet in length, the creature was seen by Native American tribes, but over the past 50 years or so there have been a string of documented sightings. Fisherman and boaters are the most likely witnesses, but Tahoe Tessie has been spotted by police officers on at least one occasion. Divers beneath the surface of the lake have had alleged run-ins with the beast as well.


Payette Lake, Idaho

A large serpent with humps on its back. Modern reports began in the 1920s and continue to today, but Native American tribes had stories of an evil spirit that lived in the lake.


Lake Memphremagog, Vermont

A creature with a long neck with a small head, long tail, large body with flippers, first spotted in the early 1800s, and sightings continue to recent times. Memphre may be a creature similar to the Loch Ness Monster.

Canadian Lake Monsters


Muskrat Lake, Ontario

Older accounts paint a picture of a strange serpent with multiple eyes. Today, Mussie is thought of as an unknown marine mammal of some kind. Sightings allegedly go back as far as several hundreds of years and included an undocumented encounter by explorer Samuel de Champlain.


Crescent Lake, New Foundland

A slender, eel-like creature approximately 15 feet in length, Cressie was apparently known to the Native American tribes of the area, who referred to it as the Pond Devil. Sightings by Europeans only began to surface in the 1900s. By recent reports, it seems Cressie may be a type of very large freshwater eel.


Okanagan Lake, British Columbia

A tremendous sea snake, up to 50 feet in length, is often described as having the head of a goat or horse. While sightings by Native Americans date back to at least the 19th century, the first documented modern sighting occurred in 1926 when dozens of people spotted the creature off Mission Beach. Video footage has been recorded over the years, but none has proven conclusive.


Lake Simcoe, Ontario

Short in body and with the head and face of a dog, Igopogo is slow-moving compared to reports of other lake monsters. The creature has been spotted onshore as well as in the lake. Some speculate it could actually be a large seal.


Lake Manitoba, Manitoba

A long, serpentine creature, perhaps up to 50 feet in length, with a sheep-like head. Manipogo has been spotted as far back as the 1800s, and Native people knew of it long before. Witnesses often claim to see large, undulating humps in the water, and a large head that raises up. Some experts contend that Manipogo sightings may be due to the surfacing of a very large sturgeon.

Note: Winnipogo of Lake Winnipegosis, Manitoba, CAN, is another lake monster and is thought to be the same creature as Manipogo since the two lakes connect.

Could unknown or out-of-place marine mammals account for lake monster sightings?

Could unknown or out-of-place marine mammals account for lake monster sightings?

Lake Monsters on the US / Canadian Border


Lake Champlain, Vermont, USA / Quebec, CAN

Approximately 30 feet in length, with a long, slender neck, small head, and flippers. Champ is among the best-documented North American lake monsters and has been spotted hundreds of times through the years. The creature has been ingrained in the local culture, and cryptozoologists spend a fair amount of time at the lake searching for the beast. As of yet, no hard evidence has been found. Researchers speculate that, like the Loch Ness Monster, Champ may be a relic plesiosaur or a rare and undiscovered marine mammal.

Ugly Merman (Merbeing)

Lake Superior

A big (apparently unattractive) humanoid. Reports are scattered going back to the 18th century, not only in Lake Superior but also across other northern countries with access to large bodies of water. One explanation may be a marine mammal, such as the Bearded Seal.


Lake Erie

A long, snake-like creature, perhaps fifty feet in length. Sightings began in the 18th century, mainly by shipboard sailors out on the huge lake. In the early 1800s, a dying monster was alleged to have washed ashore, only to be swept away by the waves soon after. Sightings continue to this day.

Explanations and Theories

It’s interesting to note that most bodies of water where the monsters are found are glacial lakes, carved out from the last ice age, and many were once were connected, either directly or through major tributaries, to the ancient Champlain Sea.

Did ancient sea creatures once swim in this seaway, only to become trapped when the water receded? If so, what kind of animals might they be? Seals and other small marine mammals may be able to sneak into bodies of water far from the ocean, and their appearances would surely be rare and surprising.

Many experts also point to sturgeon as possible culprits. Sturgeon are huge, scaleless bottom-feeding fish that can reach nearly twenty feet in length. They rarely surface but are surely a sight when they do. Is this what witnesses are seeing?

Freshwater eels may be another explanation for some of these sightings. These animals require a clear path to saltwater for spawning, but they spend the majority of their lives in freshwater lakes and rivers. It’s not uncommon to find them very far inland. On average they may be a few feet long, but there are odd reports of them reaching lengths of up to fifteen feet. Perhaps there is an undiscovered species out there that grow to incredible sizes.

Marine mammals? Eels? Relic Reptiles? Anyone who has seen something strange in the water knows there is no easy explanation. While the Loch Ness Monster can count itself among the most famous cryptids in the world, it is not alone. It seems there is a little more than legend to the stories of North American lake monsters.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Joshua Hamilton on April 24, 2017:

No one.ever seems to go with the amphibian theory. Search loch ness giant salamander. It's compelling and answers a lot of questions.

cryptid (author) from USA on November 26, 2014:

That's a good question, Blackspaniel1. There are certainly odd monsters reported in southern lakes and swamps, but not nearly as often, and the ones from the glacial lakes appear to fit one or two basic types. I don't know that I've heard of a plesiosaur-type creature spotted in a southern lake, though there may be some stories out there.

Blackspaniel1 on November 25, 2014:

Interesting. I wonder if there are any farther south. If there is a glacial connection, probably not.

cryptid (author) from USA on July 14, 2014:

That's an interesting story, JRand. Thanks for sharing! Good luck tracking down your lake monster, and let us know what you find out!

JRand on July 13, 2014:

Was best article I've read on finding out about sightings. My children reported to me seeing a Nessy type creature in a smaller lake in lower Michigan. It sounded far fetched but all 3 saw it and got really scared and sent the oldest in to get me. When I arrived it left. They said it surfaced head only 2 mins. Hard to believe but they are adamant and stick to the same description and story over and over. I am going to ask current locals if they've ever seen it or if there's any matching forlorn in this region.

cryptid (author) from USA on April 07, 2014:

Thanks carrie. Glad you found it interesting!

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on April 06, 2014:

Very awesome hub ! :). Very informative, organized and well written. I Never realized there were so many lake creatures, I only knew about Champ, Nessie and Pogo critters. Thank you for pointing out the differences between sea monster and sea serpent. Also adding the possible creature suspects line up provided logic. Thank for taking the time in putting this hub together. Have a wonderful week.

cryptid (author) from USA on November 30, 2013:

Thanks Eric. I think there has to be something to the sightings as well.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 29, 2013:

Wonderful. Me I do think that we are foolish in our plain and only see it mode. They are not a figment.

cryptid (author) from USA on December 07, 2012:

Thanks Phil. Yeah, we have a lot of them over here. I struggle with the plesiosaur theory, just because it seems like there ought to be more sightings if there is a breeding population of air-breathing creatures in these lakes. Then again, if they have incredibly long life spans there could be a lot fewer of them than we'd think.

Phil Riddel from Scotland on December 07, 2012:

Very interesting... I had no idea there were so many different lake monsters reported in N. America. Although I'm pretty sceptical about these things, one fact intrigues me, which is that during the mesozoic era - the time of the plesiosaurs - the Atlantic Ocean hadn't yet opened up and NE USA/Canada and Scotland - where Nessie allegedly lives - were all part of the same land mass...

cryptid (author) from USA on December 07, 2012:

Thanks Georgie! Glad you enjoyed it!

Georgie Lowery from North Florida on December 07, 2012:

Really interesting Hub. I like how you tie all of the information together and then let me decide what I want to believe. Good work!