The waves splashed gently upon the shore and the full moon shone brightly upon Bear Lake, making the water shimmer. A deep foreboding was in the air and the fawn, sipping from the lake, could sense it. His ears perked up and he stood still while his eyes searched the area. Only the sounds of nature could be heard, crickets sang and an owl hooted, but the deer sensed that he was in danger and quickly darted away. With great speed, he sprinted gracefully, as if in mid air, toward safety.
A few feet from shore, the water abruptly parted and exposed a gigantic brown lump about 90-feet long. Water was trickling down its sides as it floated in the stillness of the night. At first glance it looked like an enormous log that had floated to the surface. After a couple seconds, it slowly moved toward shore. A howl of a wolf was heard in the distance but it was instantly cut off when a thunderous noise, like the roaring of an angry bull, pierced the night and was heard from the shores of Bear Lake and beyond. Immediately, the sounds of nature became silent and an eerie sense of foreboding remained in the atmosphere.
The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster has been an exciting part of Idaho history ever since the early pioneers arrived in 1863. Prominent leaders of the area encouraged the Indian legend because no one had a desire to move to the cold Bear Lake country. The valley was located at the tops of the Rocky Mountains in southern Idaho and the winters were harsh.
The legend of the Bear Lake Monster made life a little more exciting for the pioneers. Some people claimed to have seen it and gave descriptions of it. Throughout the years, no one has ever disproved the Bear Lake Monster. A bunch of scientists tried to discredit the monster and said it was a huge codfish that was shipped in from the East. Does the Bear Lake Monster exist? Is it fact or fiction, legend or myth?
The legend of the Bear Lake Monster began with the Natives who inhabited this valley. When the settlers arrived in 1863, the Indians told them all about the Great Bear Lake Monster. It had captured and carried off two of their braves while swimming. The legend came alive when people began reporting its existence.
Thomas Sleight and John Collings of Paris, Idaho, and Allen and M.C. Davis of St. Charles were taking six girls home from a party in Fish Haven when they stopped off at the lake. Some unusually large waves got their attention. They noticed four brown lumps and six smaller ones that were heading southward. They swam with incredible speed, about a mile a minute, until they were out of sight.
One summer day in 1868, S. M. Johnson was riding his horse alongside the shoreline when he saw an object floating in the water. At first glance, it looked like a man’s body. He was shocked and thought that someone had drowned so he trotted his horse closer and watched the object but it didn’t move. When the water didn’t wash the body ashore, he figured it must have been a tree that was anchored to the bottom of the lake with its roots still in tact. As he watched this so-called tree, he said it opened a gigantic mouth that was large enough to swallow a man and it blew water from its mouth and nose. Johnson said that it had a skinny head, huge pointed ears, and three small legs that rose up from the water as it approached the shore.
Some time later, a group of twenty people spotted the monster and among these were prominent men of the community. Two outstanding leaders who reported the sighting were Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon. No one doubted what they saw. These men had integrity and were trustworthy.
The interesting thing is that all the reports have pretty much the same description. The monster’s eyes were flaming red and its ears stuck out from the sides of its skinny head. Its body was long, resembling a gigantic alligator, and it could swim faster than a galloping horse. It had small legs and a huge mouth, big enough to eat a man.
As I researched this subject for my next book, Sarah’s Special Gift, I learned so much about this area. I just lived a half hour away, over the mountain from Bear Lake Valley, but most of this info was new to me. So…is the Bear Lake Monster fact or fiction, legend or myth? Whatever conclusion is drawn, the legend still lives on and brings a great deal of mystery and excitement to the community. Remember, when visiting Idaho, never doubt the Bear Lake Monster or you’ll be frowned upon. No one makes fun of the great legend of Bear Lake Valley!