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What is Ogopogo?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 21, 2024
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Ogopogo is a legendary lake monster that is said to inhabit Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada. Residents of Vernon, British Columbia called the creature Ogopogo in honor of a 1920s song by the same name. Ogopogo is said to have a horse-like head and a serpent’s body, roughly 20 to 50 feet (6-15 m) long. The creature is reported to be dark blue, brown, or black in color, with fins and a light-colored underside.

Long before European settlers discovered Ogopogo for themselves, Canadian Aboriginals referred to Ogopogo as Naitaka, which means sacred creature of the water, or N'ha-a-itk, which translates to lake demon. According to Aboriginal folklore, Ogopogo is said to live in a cave near Rattlesnake Island. Consequently, the local Aboriginals made offerings to appease the beast whenever they canoed near its lair.

Ogopogo’s first documented sighting was reported in 1872. Its first mass-sighting occurred in 1926 when roughly thirty cars full of people gathered to look at the creature on Okanagan Mission Beach. The incident was later reported in The Vancouver Sun, seven years before the first reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.

Like the Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo also resides in a long and narrow body of water at approximately the same latitude as Loch Ness. Although Ogopogo is often compared in Cryptozoology to its Scottish counterpart, Cryptozoologist and author of Searching for Hidden Animals, Roy P. Mackal, theorizes that Ogopogo is actually a species of primitive whale known as Basilosaurus cetoides. Whereas Nessie is often described as resembling a plesiosaur, Ogopogo is described as “log-like” and only one or two feet (.3 to .6 m) in diameter.

In 1968, a man named Art Folden captured a dark, reptilian object on video which appears to be swimming near the shore of Lake Okanagan. Then in 1989, a snake-like creature was also captured on video, appearing to flick its tail before plunging into the water. Although many theorized the creature on film a beaver due to the characteristic tail flick, the videographers claimed that the animal they saw was approximately 15 feet (4.6 m) long.

Like the Mothman, Jersey Devil and the Chupacabra, Ogopogo is often thought to be a natural animal such as an otter or sturgeon, mistaken for a cryptid. Ogopogo has been embraced as a cultural myth and mascot for British Columbia and Canada as a whole, even appearing on a Canadian postage stamp and being adopted as a mascot by Kelowna's Western Hockey League team, the Kelowna Rockets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Ogopogo?

The Ogopogo is a legendary lake monster said to inhabit Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, Canada. Described as a serpentine creature with a horse-like head, it has been part of local Indigenous folklore for centuries and has gained wider notoriety through reported sightings and folklore, similar to Scotland's Loch Ness Monster.

Are there any credible sightings of the Ogopogo?

While there have been numerous reported sightings of the Ogopogo, none have been substantiated with concrete evidence. Many sightings are anecdotal, with some captured on video or in photographs, but these often lack clarity and can be attributed to misidentifications of natural phenomena or animals.

What is the origin of the Ogopogo legend?

The Ogopogo legend originates from the First Nations' folklore around Okanagan Lake, particularly the Syilx (Okanagan) people, who called the creature N'ha-a-itk. The stories were later adapted by European settlers, transforming into the modern myth of a lake monster that has captured public imagination.

Has any scientific research been conducted on the Ogopogo?

Scientific research on the Ogopogo is limited, as it is considered a cryptid—a creature whose existence is suggested but not recognized by scientific consensus. Some efforts, such as sonar searches and expeditions, have been made to explore the depths of Okanagan Lake, but no evidence of a large unknown creature has been found.

What could explain the sightings of the Ogopogo?

Sightings of the Ogopogo could be explained by a variety of factors, including floating logs, waves, wakes from boats, or known animals like otters or sturgeons. Psychological phenomena such as pareidolia, where the human brain interprets vague stimuli as something familiar, may also play a role in some sightings.

How has the Ogopogo influenced local culture in British Columbia?

The Ogopogo has become an iconic symbol of Okanagan Valley, influencing local culture through tourism, merchandise, and folklore. It has inspired festivals, statues, and has been used in marketing to attract visitors to the region, celebrating the mystery and allure of this legendary creature.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By BabaB — On Sep 27, 2011

It's fun to have myths and old stories about monsters in the lake. I haven't heard too much about the ogopogo monster in British Columbia. There may be some truth to the legend. It is possible that there is a species from ancient times that has survived in the deep waters of lakes.

I don't know how likely this is though, since there is no real physical evidence. With myths and legends, the power of suggestion is pretty strong.

For a long time, the story of Sasquatch living in the deep forests of Washington state and British Columbia had many people convinced there were man-apes.

There were many reports of sightings and photos were taken. The photos were determined to be of a man dressed up like an ape. I haven't heard of any Sasquatch sightings in quite a while!

By Izzy78 — On Sep 27, 2011

@jmc88 - It is not uncommon for people to confuse Ogopogo with Champ as they are both sea serpents and are local legends created by the media.

I myself are very skeptical to both as well as the Loch Ness Monster and I have only seen legitimate video or pictoral evidence from Champ that leaves me without a logical explanation.

As far as all three myths go I think that it is quite a coincidence that all three are from very small areas, in the north with a small but dense population, and have a very big lake. I am not pointing fingers but it would not surprise me at all to think that myths such as these have bolstered tourism to the point that the areas are far better off than they would be if they were just resorts.

Since these areas are in the north they cannot be used for more than a few months as a warm weather resort and have to rely on things such as fishing trips to get people to come to the lake. Legends and myths such as sea monsters appeal to people and make people want to take out their camera and cash in on the photos of the beast which can be sold to the media for a big profit and also get their name in the papers.

By jmc88 — On Sep 26, 2011

@stl156 - I believe that both of you have Ogopogo confused with Champ as they are two completely different legends. However, I have heard people confuse this before and said they were going to Lake Champlain in New York to see Ogopogo when they were actually going to see Champ.

Although Champ does have numerous sightings reported, probably the most legitimate of any lake monster, Ogopogo, which is actually in British Columbia, did not have a reported sighting until the Civil War era and very very little evidence of Ogopogo exists, not near as much as Champ, it is probably simply a myth created by the locals during that time to create an explanation to a strange event.

So I would categorize Ogopogo with the Loch Ness Monster as simply being a legend with limited reliable sighting as opposed to Champ which has many documented strange occurrences to question what is going on in the water.

By stl156 — On Sep 26, 2011

@cardsfan27 - I understand your assumption completely and feel that may probably be true. I am not at all a believer in monsters and am sure there is a logical explanation to both but considering that the Loch Ness Monster myth started out of a hoax that would be that people have simply been seeing things over the years there and have not actually seen a monster of some sorts.

Considering that Ogopogo, or "Champ" as the locals call him or her, has had documented stories over the last four-hundred years this means that people over many generations have seen something in the water that was either scary enough or strange enough to think that there is something as un-realistic as a monster being there.

Despite my skepticism I will say I am very fascinated with Ogopogo as this myth has generated a lot of sightings and a lot of video and pictoral evidence that is very strange and leads to to legitimately question what in the world it was they were looking at.

By cardsfan27 — On Sep 25, 2011

I find Ogopogo to be a lot more realistic than the Loch Ness Monster. Throughout the centuries the Native American of the area have told stories about this mythological beast and these have continued well into the twenty-first century as stories still show up extensively nowadays.

The difference between the reporting of Ogopogo and the Loch Ness Monster is that there is not a single reported case of the Loch Ness Monster before the 1930's when the first photo was taken, which has since been proven to be a hoax. Ogopogo on the other hand has been widely reported since the 1600's and has been reported by many different types of people in a variety of ways.

I have never been to either Loch Ness or Lake Champlain but I am certain that if I were to ask people about their experiences there will be more talking about seeing something more reliable involving Ogopogo than the Loch Ness Monster.

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