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The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

Apr 15, 2024, 9:23 AM | Updated: 10:57 am

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Photo: Bear Lake Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau

This article about the Bear Lake monster is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau


How the legend of the Bear Lake monster began

No lake would be full without its legends, and at Bear Lake, tales of a monster that lurks beneath the water dominate late-night tellings by the fireside. In most accounts, people will report sightings of a crocodile-like serpent up to 90 feet long, swimming quickly to capture its victim. Much like the Loch Ness Monster has captured the imagination in Scotland, the Bear Lake Monster has earned cultural significance in the region. 

The first recorded instance of the monster appeared in an article in the Deseret News in 1868 by Joseph C. Rich. In it, he describes how many different settlers reported a swift-moving monster as they started to inhabit the region. However, he claims the Native Americans had tales of a beast long before they arrived. 

Interest seemed to peak in the decade following Rich’s tale. Brigham Young took an interest in the story, reportedly sending a large rope to Paris, Idaho, to help capture the creature and verify the claims. Some even speculated there might be an underground channel that connected the Great Salt Lake and other waterways to Bear Lake to explain the creature’s presence. 

Since then, people have widely disputed the legend, with some claiming that enough witness testimonies arose from independent sources and circumstances to deem it trustworthy. Rich later recanted his original story, but reports continued to appear from other sources. Over the years, articles from several news outlets have continued to be published, contributing to its significance. Regardless of where your belief lies, the legend lives on.  

What the monster looks like

black and white artistic rendering of the bear lake monster

Photo: Bear Lake Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau

Most people describe the monster as a dragon-like creature, with many depictions of the monster resembling the aforementioned Loch Ness Monster from Scotland. People usually describe the monster as having a thin head, a large mouth, and tiny legs to propel it through water. People have also claimed that the snake-like creature spouts water from its mouth and moves so fast through the lake that it leaves a wake behind its course. 

Some cryptozoologists have claimed legitimacy to the creature, believing it to be a dinosaur-like creature that descended from a creature when the waters of Lake Bonneville covered the region. According to Cryptids, some suspects of the creature based on descriptions gathered from various accounts include a basilosaurus, a paddlefish, or even a sturgeon. 

When the last sighting was reported

The last reported sighting was in 2002 from Bear Lake business owner Brian Hirschi. He described seeing a two-humped creature with dark, slimy skin and deep red eyes that jumped in the air. 

image of dinosaur-like creature swimming around the lake

Photo: Bear Lake Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau

How people celebrate the Bear Lake monster today

Locals celebrate the monster, lovingly named Isabella, in many ways. According to Visit Bear Lake, the monster’s name was announced in 1996 during the annual Raspberry Days festival. Hosts organized a contest with the local elementary school children that year, who voted to name the giant sea serpent. An eight-year-old won the competition with her submission.  

People celebrate the monster with playful jest in all kinds of Bear Lake events and celebrations. For example, the Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual event celebrating folklore by hosting competitions where people design cardboard boats like the monster. During Raspberry Days, people participate in parade floats and contests that honor the legendary beast. For a time, a tourist attraction included lakeside tours on a dragon-like charter.

Learn more about the Bear Lake monster legend

Suppose you’re interested in learning more, including a deep read of various sitings and newspaper articles. In that case, you’ll want to bookmark this digital collection from Utah State University’s Special Collections and Archives. There, you can browse artistic renderings of the monster, excerpts from books and newspapers, and field recordings.

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This is a sponsored article brought to you by KSL News Radio in conjunction with the advertiser. The advertiser paid a fee to promote this article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of KSL News Radio, its parent company, or its staff.

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