Cryptid Profile: Big Wally (AKA: The Wallowa Lake Monster)
Wallowa Lake in Joseph, Oregon is a 3.5 mile long, 1 mile wide lake that sits below the Wallowa Mountains. Formed exclusively by glaciers nearly 17,000 years ago, it has a maximum depth of nearly 300ft, a strong history in both bloodshed and gold, and like most lakes in the United States, a resident monster.
The Wallowa Lake Monster – or Big Wally as is is affectionately known – is a major part of a Nez Perce Indian legend in which two recently married young members of separate tribes were eaten by the monster. The legend states that in order to bring peace between both the Nez Perce people and the Blackfeet people, the son of the Blackfeet chief (named Tlesca) and the daughter of the Nez Perce chief (named Wahluna) were to be married. During the wedding, the two tribes gathered in peace as well as interacted with other tribes from around the area such as the Kiyouses and the Yakimas. With the ceremony complete and the sun setting, the young newlyweds got into their canoe and paddled out into the middle of the lake to gaze upon the natural beauty before them as well as take in the sight of the joined tribes.
Every member of every tribe present lined up on the shore and watched the couple as they made their way towards the middle of the lake. Suddenly and without warning, a great serpent shot up from beneath the canoe and tossed it into the air destroying it. Both Tlesca and Wahluna were thrown into the water and were viciously consumed by the serpent before it finally dove back beneath the surface. Furious at what had occurred, the Blackfeet chief took it as a sign that the Great Spirit was angry at the joining of the two tribes and quickly left the area after dissolving the treaty the Nez Perce and the Blackfeet had just made.
Now the story above is an interesting thing to read, but does Big Wally have any basis in truth? Well according to the Wallowa Chieftain Newspaper of 1885, a prospector had a sighting of the beast.
The article states that the man was rowing his boat to the other side of the lake sometime after dusk when he encountered a large animal raising its head and neck out of the water nearly ten feet. The creature thrashed its head from side to side and quickly sank back into the water. Thinking the strange beast was gone, the man started to row his boat again when the long necked creature reappeared on the opposite side of this boat. This time though the prospector was able to see the body of the creature and estimated that it was almost 80ft in length.
After swimming around on the surface for a few minutes, the creature let out a low bellow like that of a cow, dove back down into the water and disappeared in the blackness. The man described the monster as having a snake-like body, a large head like that of a hippopotamus, and a 10ft neck which was as thick as a man’s body. This though is only the first in a long string of reported sightings throughout the years.
In 1932 while out in their boat, a married couple known as the Reesey’s saw a “great fish” beneath the surface that appeared to be longer than 15ft. They reported that they rowed over it many times but that it did not seemed bothered by their presence. A few years later in the early 1940’s, a young boy was fishing along the banks of the lake when he saw a large snake-like monster with a head reminiscent of a classic Chinese dragon. The monster – which appeared to be curious – swam in close to shore and in the direction of a few other fisherman before diving back below the surface.
Many years later, a woman by the name of Irene Wiggins (who owned the Wallowa Lake Lodge) saw a creature swimming on the eastside of the lake while on horseback. She described the monster as having a large black body, a head that resembled a hog’s head, and having to weigh several hundred pounds.
In the 1950’s, a married couple by the name of Wicklander and a man by the name of Joe Tatone all saw two large unknown creatures chasing and eating fish near the head of the lake. One creature was estimated at being nearly 8ft in length while the second was estimated at around 17ft. They all described both creatures bodies as resembling that of a shark’s but with no dorsal fin, and the heads appeared to look like that of a buffalo’s but were nearly 2ft wide.
Finally, in 1982, a man and woman named Kirk Marks and Marjorie Crammer witnessed (an estimated) 50ft unknown creature creating high waves near the northeastern side of the lake. The body was described as very dark in color and serpentine in shape.
While the occasional rare sighting of Big Wally does pop up every now and again, the true identity of the monster is still unknown. Many people blame the sightings on the misidentification of large catfish, sturgeon, or eels within the lake. But others swear that what they have seen was truly a monster.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: Google