Category Archives: Lake Serpent

Pecos Bill vs. The Bear Lake Monster?

Sounds like a fight worth watching, right? But as far as folklore of the time went, the fight wasn’t even close…


Page 256 of Treasured Tidbits of Time demonstrates exactly how famous The Bear Lake Monster was during the early 1870s.  (re-published with the consent of the USU Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives).




Bear Lake Tooth Revives Legend of Indian Fear.

So has there ever been any kind of evidence of a monster at Bear Lake? Here’s a story from Sept. 8, 1925 from the Salt Lake Telegram. So was it the tooth of a large moose or a small monster? You decide.

State Official Finds “Oversize” Molar Believed Relic of Prehistoric Age

“That’s a tooth of some prehistoric animal, perhaps the tooth of the Bear Lake monster, which an Indian legend says made its home in Bear Lake,” said H. E. Crockett, secretary of state, Tuesday, on his return from a weekend outing at the northern Utah resort.

“What about the Bear Lake monster? Well, as the story was told to me as a lad,” continued the secretary, “a monster on the order of a sea serpent made it’s home in Bear Lake and would make inroads occasionally upon the camps made by the Indians…

See Salt Lake Telegram article (Utah Digital Newspapers):
Bear Lake Tooth Revives Legend of Indian Fear


Another Bear Lake Monster Story…

Another Bear Lake Monster story appears in the form of an original tale written by Tiffany Petitt. The story is in script format and is based on the characters of the TV show Supernatural. Tiffany, a talented artist, also created the illustration below in ballpoint pen. You can link to some of her other art here.

Note: The author does not own Supernatural or any of its characters. The legend in this story is based on the actual legend, and the historical facts the author used to make the monster reality are real facts with her own twists. Published with the author’s permission.


The Bear Lake Monster

A clerk from a back road motel leaned on the dirty counter as he watched the flashing neon sign reflect off of a Chevy Impala as it pulled into the small parking lot; a nice change of scenery from the usual sun-stained van or junk car of the regular customers. Two men exited the vehicle and immediately he could tell they were related; it was something about the way they carried themselves and the similarity in the way they got out of the car. The taller one headed to the trunk while the other made his way to the small lobby.

The man walked in, sporting a rustic leather jacket and holding a large milkshake in his hand, which looked somewhat unnatural with the rest of his rugged appearance. He took another sip, the straw revealing the green contents of the mint-oreo shake.

“One room, two queens please” he said casually as if he’d gone through the procedure a thousand times.

“You boys on a road trip?” the clerk asked nonchalantly, sliding two keys across the counter after the man had paid.

“Something like that… of course, aren’t most people who stay at a place like this on some kind of road trip?”

“Heh, I suppose so” he grunted, rubbing a hand across the back of his head. “Do enjoy your stay.”

“Thanks, we will” the man responded with a grin and a toast of his cup. The cool fall air flowed in through the door as he made his way back to the impala where his brother was waiting with their bags.

The first thing the two brothers noticed as they entered their room was the odd contrast of the cowboy-hat patterned bedspread and the Chinese dragon painting on the wall. The wallpaper was yellow and peeling, but the beds were nicely made and the bathroom clean.

Dean threw his bag to the side of his bed and plopped down, grabbing the remote and turning on the TV to America’s Funniest Home Videos. Kicking off his boots, he snuggled into the pillows and sipped more of his seemingly endless milkshake.

“I’m telling you Dean” Sam started, eying the dirty boots his brother had left sprawled on the floor, “drinking something like that is terrible for you.”

“Come on Sam, it’s a celebration treat for a successful hunt, and how bad can it be… it has mint in it… that’s like… a plant, or herb or something…”

“Dean, it’s got something like, two thousand calories in it, which might have been alright if you we hadn’t already eaten three full-course meals today. You won’t last long in our profession if you keep up a diet like that.”

“Ya see Sammy, you’re looking at this all wrong. If anything’s going to shorten our career, I’d say it’s the career itself, or perhaps the very fact that we exist. In my opinion, obesity is the least of our worries.”

“Well aren’t you the optimistic one” Sam mumbled as Dean laughed at a child face-planting on the TV.

“Seriously though, considering the number of times we’ve died, I wouldn’t say I’m being unreasonably pessimistic” Dean continued, turning his gaze from the screen to his brother.

Sam opened his mouth to speak but Dean interrupted his thought by changing the subject.

“So do we have any new leads? I’m hoping we can keep up this easy-salt-and-burn-without-getting-hurt gig we’ve been managing to do lately.”

Sam sighed, reaching into his leather messenger bag and pulling out their father’s journal. “Actually, we have something pretty big coming up soon.”

“No no, don’t tell me. It’s someone’s birthday… or maybe an anniversary.”

“Ha Ha, no. I’m talking about the list of dates that dad wrote down in his journal. I’ve been keeping tabs on them since we got it and it seems that he had instructions for us coming up in the next week.”

Dean cocked his head and looked over at his brother, “I don’t remember anything like that being in dad’s journal.”

“That’s because he didn’t add it till after the wreck. I guess he was writing this out for us all that time I was out looking for all those items for him to… well… I guess that, rather than a goodbye letter, he left us a list of potential hunts to keep us on our toes and together.”

Turning off the TV, Dean swung his feet over the edge of the bed and leaned forward with an expression of curious excitement.

“Well, what’s it say?”

Sam flipped through the journal’s old pages and opened it up to a double-page spread, turning it to where his brother could see it. There were some doodles drawn of a dragon and some tribal symbols scattered in-between hand-drawn notes.

“This is the creature that dad wrote about; the” Bear Lake Monster.” It was first sighted by a Mormon colonizer, Joseph C. Rich, in the 19th century. Though he recanted his claim, many other legends and stories have come about from it; some have said that it’s a giant snake with legs that Pecos Bill wrestled with and threw to Loch Ness, where it in-turn became the “Loch Ness Monster,” while others claim that it is a plesiosaurian.”

“A what?” Dean made his “How the heck do you expect me to know what that is?” face.

“It’s like a dinosaur of sorts.”

“Holy crap, seriously? I always wanted to hunt down a dinosaur.”

“You did?” Sam’s eyebrows raised in sarcastic disbelief.

“Sure I did, what kid wouldn’t? I mean you watched Jurassic Park didn’t you? Who the heck watches that and doesn’t want to kick some dinosaur tail?”

Sam let out a short breath of laughter and leaned back on his bed, lifting the book to read.

“Well I hate to burst your bubble, but according to dad, it isn’t actually a dinosaur.”

“Aw come on Sam, why do you always have to crush my childhood dreams?”

“Says the one who told me at four years old that I had to be able to hold my breath for an hour to qualify to become an astronaut.”

“Well Sam, I figured it would be better to blame the NASA recruiting system for you not being able to follow your dreams than to tell you it was dad’s fault.”

“Moving on” Sam declared, changing the subject back to the journal in his hand, “apparently dad did some research and found out some valid facts of his own aside from the folklore and rumors. The story goes that in 1865 there was a huge controversy between the settlers and the Indians. It lasted two years and apparently was the longest and most violent controversy between the natives and pioneers in Utah history. It started with a dispute between some frontiersmen and the Utes that led to one of the white men throwing a brave from his horse. The Indians took great offense to that, in particular a brave by the name of Black Hawk, hence the title of the war being the Black Hawk War.”

“Alright alright, skip the history lesson Sammy, where does this dinosaur thing come in?”

The shaggy-haired brother looked at Dean with an expression of annoyance, then continued his explanation.

“Within just a few days of the controversy, the Indians rallying behind Black Hawk had killed five Mormon settlers and hundreds of cattle were stolen; a pattern which continued for the next couple months or years. Black Hawk rallied warriors from all of the different tribes such as the Paiute and Navajo and went about massacring settlements and forts. The pioneers and settlers retaliated and war broke out, the white men chasing the natives across Utah. Though Black Hawk signed for peace in 1867, the violence continued and many Indians, without a leader to rally around became overwhelmed and desperate. This is where our “Monster of Bear Lake” comes in.”

Sam stood to his feet and began walking across the room, his father’s journal in hand as he continued the story, his finger pointing out particular notes he was addressing as he said them.

“One particular tribe of Navajo Indians had become very developed in witchcraft and ceremonial tradition which allowed them to bless of curse people and things. One of these was ‘iińzhįįd, a sympathetic magic of sorts, which uses the power of one’s name or an object in their possession. In this case, they used this curse on a snake.”

“So this is just a cursed snake?” Dean broke in, a hint of disappointment in his voice.

“Well, yes and no” Sam replied. “You see, this creature started out about fifteen feet in length, but when it was cursed it rapidly grew to around thirty-five.”

“So it’s a really big cursed snake.”

“Dean, I’m getting to that. The thing about the curse is that other than the snake growing in size, it also received supernatural qualities. Nothing could destroy it; not explosives, bullets, blades, or any man-made weaponry.”

“A bit overkill don’t you think?” Dean cut in, raising his eyebrows.

Sam rubbed his head and let out a sigh, “seriously, but there’s more. Another small addition the curse made to the snake was that it grew these small legs that run down the extent of its body… it’s not exactly a dragon or dinosaur, but it bears a resemblance. It protected the Navajo Indians for ten years, but a few months into the last year a small group of pioneers found out about the curse and discovered a way to counter it. They found an offset to the curse by placing a Protectionway sing on…” Sam reached down into their weapons bag and pulled out two scythes “… these babies.”

Read Tiffany’s entire TV script here

It came out of nowhere…and it had the right of way.

Why should deer get special treatment? The Bear Lake Monster appears to have earned some respect as signs warning boaters and beachgoers alike are now available for local purchase (BEAR LAKE MONSTER X-ING). Simply buy and post in areas thought to be frequented by the monster.

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The hunt for a real Bear Lake monster.

Known to kill a dozen sheep in a single attack, then vanish…

Was it genuine history—or a tall tale—that a massive, yet elusive creature could commit this kind of mayhem and simply disappear? That a terrible, 10-foot tall, 1,100-pound beast could be lurking behind the next bend in the trail? Or that it was able to frustrate those who sought to track and kill it for nearly 10 years?

This is the story of a real Bear Lake Monster—one you may not have heard of. His name? “Old Three toes,” also known as “Old Ephraim.” That’s right, bears really were more common in times past in the Bear Lake area…even grizzlies.

grizzly bear (3)

A grizzly bear like this one stalked Logan Canyon for years.
Photo credit: MF Photos (

When locals talk about a huge and mysterious creature in the Bear Lake Valley, they’re usually weighing in on the Bear Lake Monster. After all, numerous eye witness reports and legends surrounding the monster have been a part of the valley for about 150 years or more. Coincidentally, there was at least some opinion that the monster of the deep had a taste for sheep too.

In an August 27, 1881 article in the Ogden Standard, “A Sucker for Sheep,” the monster’s supposed liking for lamb chops is documented this way:

It was decided by the persons referred to that an attempt should be made to angle for the Bear Lake monster. A sheep was killed, placed on some grappling hooks attached to a rope, in the hope that the mammoth amphibious enormity would, from a predilection for mutton, be led into the delusive snare.

Another eyewitness claims that he saw the lake monster devour a horse, as reported in the Logan Republican on September 18, 1907:

It was now close enough for us to see that it was some water monster…then started towards us like a mad elephant…before we could move he grabbed the horse with his two front paws, opened its teeth into it like a bullterrier would a mouse. After tearing the horse badly he made an awful howl and then was gone.

Yet this story is not of the monster lake serpent, despite a shared taste for lamb, but one of a monster grizzly. One that, like the Bear Lake Monster, also generated frequent sightings and rumors between about 1911 and its death in 1923. The excerpts below are credited to the Cache Valley Tourist Council:

In the early 1900s, bears were a problem for sheepherders. One grizzly bear had developed quite a name for himself. Sheepherders called him “Old Three Toes,” for a deformity on one foot. This grizzly’s distinctive tracks made his tracks easy to identify. The bear wandered from Soda Springs, Idaho, and as far south as Weber County, and finally settled in Logan Canyon. “Old Ephraim” was named after a grizzly in California described in a story by P. T. Barnum.

Frank Clark, born in 1879 in Cherry Creek, near Malad, Idaho, was an energetic, nature-loving man. He was an excellent shot with his trusty .25-35 caliber rifle. His constant companion was his little sheep dog, Jennie, and of course his string of horses. He was part owner of the Ward Clark Sheep Company. During Clark’s first summer in Cache National Forest (1911), he counted over 150 dead sheep. He killed over fifty bears in his crusade against them. Old Ephraim was the smartest, fastest, strongest of them all. Mr. Clark became very well acquainted with “Old Eph’s” habits during the years.

By 1914, Mr. Clark was determined to get Old Ephraim. He set out with this as his main objective. He set trap after trap in the grizzly’s favorite wallows, but each time the trap was either removed, un sprung, or flung many yards away. He tried all the tricks he knew, but could never get “Old Eph” in his trap, nor could he get many glimpses of him. Always around the herd, there was the evidence of dead sheep. Old Ephraim was getting bolder and bolder, and more of a ruthless killer as the years passed.

It is interesting to point out here that the Bear Lake Monster, much like Old Ephraim, was also surrounded by rumors and rare glimpses—and yes, even the reputation of a ruthless killer. According to Indian legend, the stealthy creature would catch lake bathers by surprise, taking away the occasional member of the tribe. Now, back to our story.

In Frank Clark’s own words.
  “On August 21, 1923, I visited the trap and he (Old Eph) has drummed the wallow into a newly built one, so I carefully changed the trap to his newly built bath. I was camped one mile down the canyon in a tent. That night was fine, beautiful, a starlight night, and I was sleeping fine when I was awakened by a roar and a groan near camp. I had a dog, but not a sound came from Mr. Dog. I tried to get to sleep, but no chance; so I got up and put on my shoes but no trousers. I did take my gun, a .25-35 caI. carbine with seven steel ball cartridges, and walked up the trail. I did not know it was “Eph”: in fact, I thought it was a horse that was down. “Eph” was in the creek in some willows and after I had got past him, he let me know all at once that it was not a horse. What should I do? Alone, the closest human being three miles away and “Eph” between me and camp.

I listened and could hear the chain rattle and so did my teeth. I decided to get up on the hillside and wait for him. I spent many hours up there; I had no way of knowing how many, listening to “Eph’s” groans and bellows. Daylight came at last and now it was my turn.

“Eph” was pretty well hidden in the creek bottom and willows, so I threw sticks in to scare him out. He slipped out and went down by the tent and crawled into the willows there. I tracked him down there, and when I got close to the tent, I could see a small patch of hide. I fired at it and grazed the shoulder. Now for me to get the greatest thrill of my life.

“Ephraim” raised up on his hind legs with his back to me, and a 14 foot long, log chain wound around his right arm as carefully as a man would have done it, and a 23-pound bear trap on his foot, standing 9 feet, 11 inches tall. He could have gone that way and have gotten away, but he turned around, and 1 saw the most magnificent sight that any man could ever see. I was paralyzed with fear and could not raise my gun.

He was coming. still on his hind legs, holding that cussed trap above his head. He had a four foot band to surmount before he could reach me. I was rooted to the earth and let him come within six feet of me before I stuck the gun out and pulled the trigger. He fell back, but came again and received five of the remaining six bullets. He had now reached the trail, still on his hind legs. I only had one cartridge left in the gun and still that bear would not go down.

I started for Logan, 20 miles downhill. I went about 20 yards and turned, “Eph” was coming, still standing up, but my dog, Jennie, was snapping at his heels, so he turned on the dog. I then turned back, and as I got close, he turned again on me, wading along on his hind legs. I could see that he was badly hurt, as at each breath the blood would spurt from his nostrils, so I gave him the last bullet in the brain. I think I felt sorry I had to do it.

That’s how the hunt for a real Bear Lake monster ended, a hunt that started about 100 years ago. Today there are few reminders of Old Ephraim: A pizza place sign depicting a grizzly bear in Garden City, the skull of Old Eph on display at Utah State University’s Merrill Library, and the old sheep herder stories told from time to time.

But the story of the monster that got away will always belong to our very own Bear Lake Monster.

You might have seen the Bear Lake Monster if…

Did you see something in the water? Could it have been the Bear Lake Monster?

The first report of the Bear Lake Monster came from J.C. Rich in 1868. His article claims that four men, along with six women, were returning home from Fish Haven, traveling north, when halfway to St. Charles they saw something in the water about three miles away.

But descriptions of the monster sightings have varied greatly. You may have noticed strange happenings on the lake yourself. In fact, you may have seen the Bear Lake Monster with your own eyes if:

YOU SAW something that looked like a SERPENT…or an ALLIGATOR…or a WALRUS…or a HORSE…or a PIG!

  • It’s been described as “A serpent like animal, water spurting out of its head, with the capabilities of moving about on land with short muscular legs.”
  • In July, 2010, Salt Lake Magazine quotes that “The creature’s head is alternatively described as a be-tusked walrus or a toothy alligator, both bearing giant eyes, set widely apart.”
  • It has also been described as being “…covered with fur like a seal with a head similar to an alligator.”
  • Or “…with a mane like a horse, large eyes a foot apart and about the size of person’s head.”
  • But it’s also got a head “sloped down to a point, giving it the shape of a monster pig head minus the ears.”

YOU SAW something between 30-feet and 300-feet long.

  • One witness “distinctly saw the sides of a ‘very large animal’ judged to be not less than 90 feet in length.”
  • Another account put the monster “at least ninety feet long – er – at least forty.”
  • Yet another report said the length of the monsters “varied from 30 to 80 feet.”
  • In 1889, the Jake Miles description in the Salt Lake Herald said it “appeared at least 300 feet in length, and for size would discount any antediluvian sea monster that ever rode the main.”

YOU SAW something that was FASTER than a locomotive…or at least a HORSE.

  • They say it is awkward on land but can swim, as one account has it, “faster than a locomotive.”
  • In his story, S. E. Schlosser warns, “But in the water—watch out! It can swim faster than a horse can gallop—makes a mile a minute on a good day.”

YOU SAW something with very SMALL legs…or DOZENS of legs.

  • According to the Idaho State Journal in March, 1972, Mr. S. M. Johnson said “It had short sturdy legs, a serpentine like tail, ears that looked like bunches on the side of a head almost like a horse’s except for extended nostrils and a forked tongue that flicked in and out as it shifted its head along.”
  • Another witness said “Its arms seemed to come out on either side of its head where the ears naturally would be.”
  • Someone else reported that it had “an indeterminate number of legs.”
  • Oh, and one person said “The hind legs were long and bent like that of the kangaroo.”

YOU SAW something with GREEN skin and RED eyes…or with BROWN skin and BLACK eyes.

  • In a 2004 sighting, the Deseret News reported that Brian Hirschi said”…it had “really dark, slimy green skin and deep beet-red eyes.”
  • In an 1889 sighting, the Salt Lake Herald reported that Jake Miles “discerned a long, black, snakey form…the round, fiery eyes, seemingly a foot in diameter, were deep set and well back.”


  • In 1870, Marion Thomas observed the following regarding the monster: “A long, thin, blood-red tongue darted out, wrapped itself several times around a huge clump of bushes, and before I could tell it, the snapping of roots was heard, the enormous jaws opened and the bushes disappeared down its hideous throat.”

So did you see something unusual? Something green or brown or fast or long? No matter what you saw, one thing’s for sure—there’s a chance that it was indeed the Bear Lake Monster.

You know Nessie and Cressie, and Tarpie and Tessie, Ooly and Muckie, and Kipsy and Bessie. But do you recall the most famous monster of all?

Let’s face it. Most lake monsters have memorable nicknames—perhaps the most famous being the Lock Ness monster, “Nessie” (Scotland).

But hey, Nessie is not alone when it comes to the catchy moniker. Playing off the Nessie name, many lake monsters were named similarly with names like “Bessie” of Lake Erie (Great Lakes); “Cressie” of Crescent Lake (Canada); and “Tessie” of Lake Tahoe (California).

What about the local Utah/Idaho monster of Bear Lake? The “Bear Lake Monster” is a recognized name,  but gets zero points for creativity. Yet in its defense, the Bear Lake creature is not alone. In fact, many lake monsters have taken the easy way out. For example, Lake Van is known for the “Lake Van Monster,” and Lake Utopia promotes—you guessed it—the “Lake Utopia Monster.” Easy to remember? Yes. Award-winning names? No.

Not to worry folks. Just like “Rudolph” was the one reindeer that needed a special song to become a household name, the Bear Lake Monster has a name too. Problem is, most people don’t know it.

To make the point, the Deseret News printed an article in 2003 entitled, “Bear Lake Monster gets no respect.” In it, the newspaper points out that few people know the Bear Lake Monster has another more personal name.

So what is it? Why, it’s “Isabella!” Really, it’s true. The Deseret News reported the naming of the monster this way:

During Garden City’s annual Raspberry Days festival in 1996, chairwoman Anne Rex organized a contest wherein local elementary schoolchildren vied to name the monster.

“I wanted to see what kind of feeling people in the community had about her—or him,” she said. (Most people refer to the monster as a she.) “Every one of the names were happy names—there was never anything scary.”

Out of 150 names submitted, including such wildly imaginative monikers as “Fred,” the judges chose the name submitted by 8-year-old Amanda Price: “Isabella.”

There you have it. Isabella it is. Although slow to gain traction, it seems the name has stuck.

For those still wondering about the names listed in the headline of this post, they are all real lake monster names. “Tarpie” comes from Lake Tarpon (Florida); Ooly hails from Lake Oologah (Oklahoma); “Muckie” lives in Lakes of Killarney (Ireland); and “Kipsy” calls the Hudson River home (New York).

So although Isabella is not known for a shiny nose, perhaps the other monsters will agree: “Isabella the Bear Lake Monster, you’ll go down in history!”

Birth of a monster.

Frankenstein is a monster.

He’s a monster created in a book by Mary Shelley about bringing the dead to life through a gruesome experiment (first published in London, 1818 and France, 1823).

“But is Frankenstein real?” you might ask.

Perhaps you should ask one of a thousand kids trick-or-treating this year who chooses to masquerade as the Frankenstein monster. Or maybe you should measure the level of fright and curiosity generated by the book, the classic movie and numerous spin-offs. You’d have to conclude that whether he ever actually existed in the flesh, he is certainly real—and therefore exists.

About the same time period, across the wild west of North America, another monster story was being told near Bear Lake, on what is now the Utah-Idaho border.

The first record of whites seeing the lake is from 1818 when French-Canadian trappers working for the North West Company followed the Bear River upstream to the valley. Later, between 1825 and 1840, many mountain men, including Jedediah Smith and Jim Bridger, met on the south shore with Native Americans to swap goods and stories. One story that was told was about the legendary lake monster. (Source: Wikipedia)

This is the first known telling of stories about a lake monster in Bear Lake. Of course, the now infamous Bear Lake Monster would produce many more stories in the years to come. The most notable stories were made famous by settler Joseph C. Rich, the first published in 1868 in the Deseret News.

The Indians say there is a monster animal which lives in the Lake that has captured and carried away Indians while in the Lake swimming; but they say it has not been seen by them for many years, not since the buffalo inhabited the valley. They represent it as being of the serpent kind… (published 8-5-1868)

Like Frankenstein, this monster is alive and well today. Whether it actually swam through the depths of Bear Lake a century ago is irrelevant. Some descriptions have it at 40 feet in length, others at 200 feet. It has been reported to be both a brown or green color. The legs are described as just a few smaller legs to legs that covered its entire body. It’s been compared to a serpent, an alligator, a snake, and a walrus.

But it’s not how you picture the Bear Lake Monster, but the fact that you do that makes it exist. This blog is dedicated to telling the stories of the Bear Lake Monster and other fascinating stories surrounding Bear Lake.

“Very large animal…not less than 90 feet in length.”

“…they were attracted by a “peculiar motion or wave in the water” about three miles away. The lake surface was not rough but showed the effects of a light wind, and one in the party claimed he distinctly saw the sides of a “very large animal” judged to be not less than 90 feet in length.”

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