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Saturday, February 27, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: A lake creature in Michigan

Lake Leelanau consists of two conjoining lakes north and south, and runs through the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan. The south lake has a maximum depth of 62 feet (19 m) and the north lake has a maximum depth of 121 feet (37 m). It is the reported home of a strange creature described as having a long neck and tail, and two large eyes.

The creature first appeared after the Lake Leelanau Dam was built in the late 1800s. When the dam was finished the lake’s water levels rose 10 to 12 feet ( 3-4 metres), flooding parts of the land and creating a marsh-like environment around the lake. It also shut off the lake’s outlet and some say, sealed the creature in.

In the summer of 1910 teenager William Gauthier was fishing on the lake. He rowed out to a new fishing spot near the town of Lake Leelanau looking for perch and paddled up close to a tree that he estimated to stand about five feet tall above the water, with a six-inch trunk. He cast a line and began tying the boat to the tree. The young William suddenly noticed the tree had eyes. They were staring him dead in the face at about four feet above water level. The two starred at each other for a few moments before the animal dove into the water and went under the boat. Gauthier said later that the creature's head passed one end of the boat while the tail was still at the other end, though it was undulating very quickly through the water. Gauthier admitted to having been frightened by his encounter, and that he stayed off that lake for many years. His great grandchild stated in an interview years later that his great-grandfather came from a prominent family in the area and was very well-educated, so not easily fooled. William had also told his family that he knew of others who would admit privately but not publicly that they too had seen the creature.

Several other encounters with the creature were apparently reported around the turn of the century but were not formally recorded for fear of ridicule.

I could not find any modern-day reports and the theory is that whatever was trapped by the dam was alone and has since died.

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

I had always thought the story was preposterous but that the description could be a large seal. Large meaning about a dozen feet long: that is in line with the creatures reported at Lake Simcoe and Muskrat Lake (Some of the Lake Champlain sightings sound like this also)

One thing about that idea is that the reported seal has a very full set of bushy whiskers described elsewhere, and that is not included in this description.

There are two different locations in Lower Michigan (that's the part across the border from Indiana) where such creatures were described as "Brontosaurs": one n the way from Chicago to Grand Rapids, in the Grand River, and the other in the East near Detroit. Before I foud out there were two different locations, I thought that both were references to the same report: but I heard of the one in the Grand River while in High School circa 1970 and the other is listed in Eberhart's appendix on Lake Monsters in Mysterioyus Creatures. It is evidently because the seal has a very small head and a very large body that people say it is like a Brontosaurus. I would say the Wisconsin Lake Monster recently mentioned in a blog as being like a tuskless walrus with six fins would be the same species: the six fins would be a mistake but you'd be surprised how often that turns up. Very old bestiary illustrations of walruses also show them incorrectly with six limbs.