Cryptid Profile: Skin Fin- The Lake Powell Monster
When witnesses of lake monsters report their sightings to those unlucky enough to not see something strange in the water, they generally describe an unknown creature similar to that of the legendary Nessie. A large solid object moving just under the surface of the water that remains fully out of view, but gets just close enough to prove something is there. If they are truly lucky, they describe seeing humps break the surface and move steadily in one direction before descending once again.
But what happens when a witness describes something that breaks free from the standard description of a lake monster and puts it into a category all it’s own? Well when that happens, you get a creature known as Skin Fin.
Located within the 24,322,000 acre-ft/ 583ft (max) deep Lake Powell in Arizona, Skin Fin is truly a unique aquatic beast. If eyewitness accounts are to be taken seriously, the monster possesses a large dorsal fin like that of a shark, a body built like an elephant, the flat wide tail of a manatee, and a head and neck like a miniature brontosaurus. It’s skin is described as being a dark oily black and smooth like that of an eel.
Skin Fin also appears to differ from it’s lake monster cousins not only in looks, but also in its attitude towards people. While most up close encounters with these water beasts describe creatures more shy, standoffish, or curious, Skin Fin appears to want to inflict some sort of harm to those it feels should not be in its home. This bad attitude is showcased in the most famous sighting/encounter of the creature which took place in 1950’s.
While out on the lake one day in 1958 with his father, Eric Padgett was enjoying all the lake had to offer. The pair had been out waterskiing and had a rather enjoyable time, that is until they came face to face with Skin Fin. While his father pulled him behind the boat, the resident monster decided to make an appearance. A large neck and head broke the surface from below and positioned itself behind Eric. Seeing what was occurring, his father quickly turned the boat and sent Eric off to the side away from the the head of the beast and down into the water. Skin Fin took notice of this as well and changed direction towards the boy, only now it was approaching with its mouth open and teeth showing. Mr. Padgett sped up and drove the boat directly into the path of Eric and Skin Fin and made quick work of pulling his son out of the water. As the monster approached the boat, it dove beneath the surface and disappeared after Eric was pulled out safely. The only thing left behind was a fast moving wake.
After explaining to other people on the lake that day what happened, an impromptu monster hunting party was formed and the lake was searched, but Skin Fin was never found. That is until a few months later, when a large decaying body of an unidentifiable aquatic beast washed up on shore. A spectacle was made of the discovery and the head of the creature was removed and sent off for scientific study to determine just exactly what this thing was. The specimen made its way all the way to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. where it was finally identified as that of a decaying Black-Tip shark.
So there you have it, Skin Fin was nothing more than an out of place shark. Case closed. But is it really? Just what was a shark native to tropical and coastal waters doing in Arizona? The answer to that question is actually something that happens quite often with monster sightings and is one that makes it difficult to find out what actually happened. You see, the incident above is recorded as actually happening, only it didn’t happen on Lake Powell, Arizona. It happened on Powell Lake, Florida. A lake that sits near the Florida panhandle and would easily explain how a coastal shark would end up within it.
Since the names of the lakes are almost identical (and one just happens to have a legend of a monster living within it), the story was erroneously used as a true tale to prove Skin Fin’s existence. Facts were embellished, a shark became a monster, and a story became part of the legend. This happens quite often with legends of monsters as people enjoy a good story and they don’t often spend a good amount of time verifying if that story is actually true or taken from somewhere else. They hear the word monster and they want to believe. So if a lake monster is said to reside in Wisconsin, and someone hears of a story that took place on a lake of the same name in Louisiana with something odd, it’s not difficult for the storyteller to forget to mention (either intentionally or unintentionally) the full details of where the incident occurred. After that, the story spreads like wildfire and a false story becomes fact.
Now does fully explain away all the sightings of something strange being seen in Lake Powell? No it does not. Skin Fin sightings still trickle in from eyewitnesses lucky enough to see something just below the surface of the water. Multiple fisherman have reported seeing large wakes move past their boat that cannot be explained as the water is generally calm at the time of the sightings. Other sightings of large wakes and breathing bubbles (like that of a scuba diver) coming up to the surface have been made by groups of people with as many as ten in their party. So people are witnessing something odd, but nobody is quite sure of what it is.
Could it be Skin Fin? Sure. One of its distant and more normally described cousins? Could be. Or could it be something more common to the area but less fun to tell a story about? It very well could be. But at the end of the day, it basically comes down to what story you want to believe and which one sounds more fun when you retell it.
-The Pine Barrens Institute