Monday, July 18, 2011

The Bear Lake Monster: Fact Or Fiction?

Bear Lake Monster
(The picture may look a little bit respect for family
members and children, I have edited them out)
For centuries, the legend of the Bear Lake Monster has been told among residents and travelers to Bear Lake. The Deseret News ran a story on the monster as early as July 31st 1868.

Is this "Bear Lake Monster" a real living creature that lurks throughout the waves of beautiful Bear Lake in Northern Utah, or simply a story made up to keep tourism up at Bear Lake? Weigh the facts, take a trip to Bear Lake, and decide for yourself!

(Most facts and information for this article have been taken from the Bear Lake Chamber website and a Salt Lake Tribune article.)

  • The Native Americans (Shoshone Tribe specifically) have a tradition concerning a strange, serpent-like creature inhabiting the waters of Bear Lake, which they say carried off some of their braves many moons ago. Since then, they will not sleep close to the lake. Neither will they swim in it, nor let their squaws and papooses bathe in it.
  • Many honorable people have claimed to see this "Bear Lake Monster", including John Taylor, former president of the LDS (AKA "Mormon") church.
  • The origins of the Bear Lake Monster go back to a series of articles written by Joseph C. Rich, a Mormon colonizer at Bear Lake. His articles in the Deseret Evening News claimed several upstanding citizens, but not Rich himself, had seen the creature. However, in 1888 he recanted the stories, saying he had made up the monster. Like any good ad campaign, the creature may have been created to boost tourism. Rich owned the first general store in Bear Lake County, Idaho.
The description of the Monster is always simliar: A creature with a brown-colored body, somewhat bigger in circumference than a man, anywhere from 40 to 200 feet long. Its head was shaped like a walrus without tusks or like an alligator's, and the eyes were very large and about a foot apart. It had ears like bunches, about the size of a pint cup. It had an unknown number of legs, approximately eighteen inches long, and it was awkward on land, but swam with a serpent-like motion at a speed of at least sixty miles an hour. No one ever described the back part of the animal since the head and forepart was all that was ever seen. The rest was always under water. The Bear Lake Monster has been speculated to be a Basilosaurus Cetoides, however these prehistoric whales did not live in freshwater thus making this impossible. But in the case of Nessie, Plesiosaurs survived in the oceans until the Loch was cut off from oceanic areas, thus making them adapt to freshwater. Also, some say it may be a holdover of Mosasaurus. People can't seem to agree on the details. Some say it looks like a walrus minus the tusks; others are adamant it's a dinosaur or a big alligator that swims really fast.

In 1874, a traveler named John Goodman came through the Bear Lake Valley. He described an Indian legend about two lovers whom, upon being pursued by some of their fellow tribesmen, plunged into the lake and were changed by the Great Spirit into two large serpents.



From Salt Lake City, take Interstate 15 north 54 miles to the Logan exit. Take U.S. 91 north 27 miles, then U.S. 89 north for 40 miles to Bear Lake.
Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Located on the north end of Bear Lake. The refuge is 17 acres of marsh, open water and grassland that is home to large numbers of waterfowl.
Minnetonka Cave: Located nine miles up St. Charles Canyon in Idaho. Open for tours daily.
Highland Trail: A 55-mile long National Recreation trail is accessible from many points within the Bear Lake area.
Oregon Trail: The Oregon Trail crosses Bear Lake County. Although much of it is paved over, parts of the original trail are visible parallel to U.S. 30 north of Georgetown, Idaho. The Oregon Trail Rendezvous Pageant is scheduled in Montpelier July 24.
Paris Tabernacle: Built by Mormon pioneers over a century ago, the tabernacle is open to daily tours.

You can also read our Family Vacation Series post about Bear Lake.

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