Today’s post comes from Roger LaFontaine., park naturalist, classically trained biologist, and amateur lake monster researcher. He has spent nearly two decades researching and documenting the appearance of mysterious creatures in Ontario.
We think we know our lakes and rivers well, but in reality we’ve barely scratched the surface. Unbeknownst to us, real action may be happening. low the surface.
Ontario is home to some of the largest and deepest lakes in the world, and many campers and local communities tell stories of strange things seen in its waters. Stories are told about large creatures that can cause turbulent waters and storms.
But what do we really know about lake monsters?
The Upper Lake
The Great Lakes alone contain 20% of all the fresh water in the world, not to mention thousands of inland lakes and rivers. Many of our parks protect the shorelines of these immense lakes, while others are designated as navigable class parks.
And we certainly haven’t plumbed the biodiverse depths of all that water…
Sightings and evidence
There is very little evidence of lake monsters.
Many cryptozoologists (those who study hidden and undiscovered animals) consider the lake monsters to be a species of relict plesiosaur, a large, long-necked marine reptile believed to have been extinct since the time of the dinosaurs.
A photograph taken moments after a huge serpentine head and neck appeared in this beautiful shield lake. * The perpetrator had stuffed his camera too far into his bag to retrieve it quickly and fumbled with a dirty sock to get to it.
There are some detailed eyewitness reports from reasonably credible people. Other than that, there are some blurry photos. Lake monsters seen in Ontario have been described as having a long, serpentine body with green, brown or grayish skin. The body undulates on the surface of the water and many witnesses have described a creature measuring more than 15 m long. A very long neck with a head described as horse- or dog-like. Legs have been reported on very few lake monsters, and none have been reported to venture onto land.
Since none have been recorded on land, there are no footprints. If there ever was a body, it would probably sink to the bottom of the lake and our investigators would never find it.
Possible explanation: time capsules in our lakes
The Ontario we know today was not always like this. Even in the recent past, about 10,000 years ago, a shallow sea of salt water covered part of the province. The Ottawa area was under water. In fact, seal and whale bones have been found there, suggesting that ancient sea creatures made their way to the capital region.
When the last glaciers melted about 10,000 years ago, enormous amounts of water drained through what would later become the French, Ottawa and Petawawa Rivers into the St. Lawrence River.
The Champlain Sea once covered a large part of eastern Ontario. Did this expanse of ocean allow plesiosaurs or some other mysterious creature to enter ancient Ontario? Roger Lafontaine believes it is a clear possibility
At that time, the invertebrate and fish communities in the Great Lakes were quite different than today. As the water flowed, it supplied water and animals to the flooded landscape. When water levels dropped, isolated lakes were created.
Now, in some places, like Algonquin Provincial Park, fish (like the Cisco Blackfin) and crustaceans that are extinct in the Great Lakes still thrive.
Is it possible that other mysterious creatures have been deposited in these lakes, waiting to be discovered?
While there are some credible sightings of lake monsters, most are dismissed by cryptozoologists. In some cases, a more logical explanation might be that a familiar animal is behaving strangely.
For example, one of my best sightings was on an early morning canoe trip on a large Algonquin Lake.
As I turned the corner and the fog cleared, I could see something moving across the water. Her arched, undulating back made no splash as she slid underwater. I watched for several moments, preparing my camera for what was sure to be surprising proof of the existence of a lake monster.
Then, suddenly, a gurgling snort!
I realized what I saw: it was a group of otters traveling in a row; The cubs followed their mother, each making repeated shallow dives.
Roger’s drawing of a family of river otters undulating in the water, their arched backs breaking the surface. The adult female on her far right had turned to look at her hatchlings, making her a convincing lake monster “head.”
Other animals have also been identified as lake monsters. The huge, prehistoric Lake Sturgeon, which lives in many of Ontario’s large lakes and rivers. It has gray skin and large bony plates arranged in five rows that run longitudinally along the body. It has a large, pointed head, with a suction cup-shaped mouth and four long whiskers for finding prey.
The lake sturgeon, the largest fish in Ontario. Could this be the identity of at least some of Ontario’s lake monster sightings?
That almost sounds like a monster to me!
Sturgeon Lake can grow up to 2m in length, and in the past even more! Even more fascinating is that they can live for over a century and travel long distances in lakes to and from spawning grounds.
Unfortunately, sturgeon were fished to near extinction in the Great Lakes. Overexploitation, pollution and damage to the rivers where they spawn have caused a dramatic decline. (Note to self: Could humans be the real monster in the lake?) Now, after serious conservation efforts, some populations are making a modest but important recovery.
What do the experts say?
I contacted leading aquatic biologist and lake monster skeptic Dr. Benjamin Odenback of Sasajewun University to get his thoughts on the possibility of leviathans living in our lakes. This is what he had to say:
“While there is no evidence and the few existing eyewitness reports are highly questionable, there is no doubt that Ontario is an area of high aquatic biodiversity. The recent and distant past related to glacial events has shaped the diversity of aquatic life here. Because Ontario is home to so many lakes, large and small, and only a small percentage of them have been thoroughly studied, there’s a chance we’ll discover some surprising creatures in them. Now get off my porch and never come back!
Help us protect our lake monsters.
Whether or not we demonstrate the presence of monsters in the lake, we must take care of our water. Ontario’s lakes and rivers face many threats, including invasive species, pollution and coastal erosion.
So, next time you visit a park, why not take a moment to help preserve our natural landscapes and wildlife, monsters and all?