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7 Unexplained U.S. Water Creatures

Updated on January 19, 2015

Mysteries capture our imaginations, and few are so intriguing as the ones that might have some truth at their core. Around the world, eye witnesses report strange creatures living in deep lakes and murky rivers. The study of mysterious creatures like lake and river monsters is known as "cryptozoology." There are several water "cryptids" reported just in the United States, and this isn't even an exhaustive list.


Champ of Lake Champlain is probably the most famous water-dwelling cryptid in the United States. Said to reside in the only monster lake I've personally visited, Champ has the distinction of being the cryptozoological creature with the clearest picture. Sandra Mansi's photo from July 1977 is considered the best photographic evidence for any lake monster. It appears to show a creature with a humpback and swan-like neck.

Lake Champlain is a long, narrow lake with an area of 490 square miles (1,269 square kilometers). The average water depth is about 64 feet (19.5 meters), though certain places are up to 400 feet (122 meters) deep. The lake is named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who in 1608 reported sighting a strange water creature the local Native Americans called chaoussauou. Sightings have continued irregularly ever since.

Champ sightings in the Bulwagga Bay area.

A picture of me taken beside a list of Champ sightings in the Bulwagga Bay area.
A picture of me taken beside a list of Champ sightings in the Bulwagga Bay area.

Iliamna Lake Monsters

Lake Iliamna is located in southern Alaska. Like many lakes that report mysterious creatures, the lake is long, narrow and deep. It covers a total area of 1,033 square miles (2,675 square kilometers). It's pretty typical of a monster lake, except for one thing. The Lake Iliamna monster do not have the classic long neck and large body.

The creatures reported in Lake Iliamna are described as slender animals up to 30 feet long. Reports include both sightings from shore and from the air. Sightings by pilots or their passengers were reported in 1942, 1945, 1963, 1960, 1968 and 1977. Witnesses consistently describe long, slender creatures with fish-like tails and a gray color. Since the Iliamna Lake monsters look so different from other lake creatures, many suggest they are simply large fish like a sturgeon. Others suggest a descendant of the prehistoric whale, basilosaurus.


Tahoe Tessie resides in California's largest lake, which is also the world's 10th deepest lake. Lake Tahoe measures 1,645 feet (501 meters) deep, and is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Sightings of a weird creature in the lake date back to the 1800s, when white settlers first heard reports of a lake monster from local Native American tribes. Sine then, the sightings have only gotten more interesting.

In the mid 1970s, famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau is said to have led a submarine expedition into the depths of Lake Tahoe to search for Tessie. He reportedly said, “The world isn’t ready for what is down there,” and refused to release any of his findings. The story has recently been labeled a myth, but even if the Cousteau story is fictitious that doesn't eliminate the long history of sightings from local people. Tessie is typically described as unusually large with a humped back, and no visible neck.

Flathead Monster

Flathead Lake, in Montana, has an area of 197 square miles (510.2 kilometers) and an average depth of 165 feet (50 meters). It also has an impressive history of lake monster sightings. Recorded sightings began in 1889 when the captain of a steamer sighted a large animal swimming toward his boat. A passenger shot at the creature, which dove into the lake.

Sightings continued, with 79 sightings recorded between 1889 and 1994. There have been more recent sightings as well. In July 2005 a trial attorney and his wife reported seeing a strange creature that "had a serpentine look," with "several humps visible above the water." It was moving against the current and splashing in the calm water, which convinced them it was not a log.

View of Flathead Lake from Sacajawea Park


South Bay Bessie

Strange water creatures have been reported in several of the Great Lakes, but Lake Erie's monster is the most famous. South Bay Bessie was first reported in 1817, when witnesses variously described it as dark and serpentine, copper-colored, and as a large sturgeon with arms. As with many monster lakes, there are also Native American legends of a water serpent in Lake Erie.

More recent sightings describe a snake-like creatures sighted in the 1960s, '80s, '90s and 2004. Two 1985 sightings added that the creature has 3 to 5 humps and a flat tail. Most witnesses describe South Bay Bessie as dark colored, and about 30 to 40 feet long.


Not all myseerious water creatures are native to deep, cold lakes. The Altamaha-ha, or Altie, is one of the most frequently sighted cryptids in North America. Most sightings occur near the Georgia coast, in the expansive marshes and river channels that make up the estuary of the Altamaha river. The town of Derien claims the monster as its own, which seems fitting since it was originally settled by Scottish Highlanders from the Loch Ness area.

The Altamaha-ha is frequently sighted by groups of people, including a local Boy Scout troop from the 1940s, two officials from the Reidsville State Prison in the 1950s, and two fishermen who spotted the creature in 1981. Notably, most of the sightings are from people familiar with local wildlife, and who are unlikely to mistake an alligator for a sea serpent. Most reports describe a creature with a longish neck, two front flippers, and a paddle on its long tail.

Kayaking on the Altamaha River



Another river creature from the United States goes by the name Whitey and is said to live in the White River, which flows through Arkansas and Missouri. There haven't been any recent sightings, but enough people believe Whitey exists that a law was passed in 1973 creating the White River Monster Refuge along the White River, making it illegal to harm the monster.

Most sightings of the White River Monster occurred in 1937 and 1971. The 1937 sightings kicked off in early July with reports near a farm owned by Bramblett Bateman. The monster was described as least 12 feet long, with gray skin. By the end of July, Whitey seemed to go into hiding. It wasn't reported again until June of 1971. Just like before, witnesses said the creature was gray and very large – “the length of three or four pickup trucks.” Once again, sightings ended by July, and Whitey hasn't been consistently sighted since.

Which of these water creatures do you think is most likely to exist?

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