In Search of Ogopogo, the Canadian Lake Monster

If you journey to Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada, you’re sure to encounter a legend. Specifically, you’ll see plenty of merchandise and art dedicated to Ogopogo, or Oggy, the local lake monster.

Ogopogo: Canada’s Answer to Nessie

Affectionately known as Oggy, Ogopogo has been sighted by visitors since at least 1872. However, the origins of this cryptid date back much, much further to the First Nations people who lived in the area long before white settlers.

Multiple visitors claim to have captured photos and videos of Oggy over the years. Most of those have been brushed off as floating logs or groups of otters. Other explanations include the pattern of waves on the surface of the water–or simply the power of suggestion. Despite these boringly rational explanations, belief in Oggy remains.

The creature was named by tourism officials in the 1920s. Ogopogo comes from a comical music hall song that was popular at the time. The lyrics include:

His mother was an earwig;

his father was a whale;

a little bit of head;

and hardly any tail;

and Ogopogo was his name.

You can listen to the song below, but be warned: You do not want this tune stuck in your head!

Is There a Scientific Explanation?

The scientific community isn’t quick to embrace the idea of a cryptid, but some have tried to come up with a logical explanation for good old Oggy.

The leading theory right now is that if there is a large, unidentified creature, it is probably some form of a primitive whale species that have adapted to living in these conditions. While unlikely, it is absolutely possible – species of sharks are known to have been around for hundreds of years in the ocean, and scientists have not even scratched the surface of categorizing all water-based life.

Water Monster or Protective Spirit?

Modern scholars of folklore believe that Ogopogo’s origins are rooted in the traditions of the Okanagan or syilx people. In fact, First Nations representative Pat Raphael recently told the BBC, “It’s not really a monster, it’s a spirit of the lake and it protects this valley from one end to the other.”

In the syilx language, the spirit is called n ̓x̌ax̌aitkʷ (pronounced n-ha-ha-it-koo). The name roughly translates to “the sacred spirit of the lake.” In the folklore traditions of the area, the lake spirit had the head of a horse and antlers of a deer. The syilx people would leave offerings of tobacco, sage leaves or salmon as thanks to the spirit.

Lake Monsters Unite

Ogopogo is hardly the only lake monster of legend. The most famous is, of course, the Loch Ness Monster. Nessie has captivated people for generations. Nessie’s American counterparts are popular, too. Chessie is rumored to swim in the Chesapeake Bay, while Champ is Lake Champlain’s resident cryptid.

However, one of the oldest lake monster legends is Storsjöodjuret. This Norwegian cryptid was first spotted in 1635!