April 10, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

So… Ogopogo 

Or at least, here be something that feeds our collective appetite for big scary monsters. Belief sold separately

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"We hope to be a model for what is possible and not a warning for what can happen," he asserts when I lament that none of the world's other lake monsters have to contend with such rabid development. "But Kelowna offers so much more to the average traveller that Ogopogo is a minor element in the tourism equation."

Really? I ask Catherine Frechette, media relations manager for Tourism Kelowna, how many of the hundreds of visiting media she hosts each year want to know about Ogopogo. Her answer surprises.

"Pretty much everyone," she says. "At least 90 per cent of journalists I deal with say something to me. I expected western media to know about Ogopogo but I didn't think it was well-known in the rest of Canada. But writers from Toronto are all over it."

Indeed. It was in Toronto that I'd first read of the Casorso sighting. I've since watched a clip of the video (it's on YouTube.com ), and as someone with a fairly healthy background in vertebrate paleontology, quickly concluded there was nothing saurian about the strange standing humps it portrays.

Still, there's no denying it portrays something . Something weird and possibly inexplicable. Something big enough to flip a kayak.



Rattlesnake Island looms above me. It seems largish from water level, but it's actually quite small. I paddle through the narrow channel separating it from the mainland-the one that funnels wind through like a locomotive, creating violent wave trains-and around the island's west side, where a series of finger cliffs point southwest, and the aquamarine water reflecting off the rock webbing creates a grotto effect between each. In a tiny cove between the ring-finger and pinky, I pull up the kayak and toss out my gear. It feels good to be on land, no matter how insubstantial.

The paddle was eerie. Most of this part of the lake's south side is uninhabited, and 2003's devastating Okanagan Mountain fire burned right to the water along much of the shore, leaving gnarled charcoal mannequins and tilted black spires as ghostly sentinels and spooky waypoints. Boats are scarce this late in the season, and save for the occasional distant whine of Highway 97, you're completely removed from the smear of lakeside development engulfing Peachland and Westbank on the opposite shore. Instant isolation.

I climb to the island's crest, where a sudden wind is bending the straw grass flat, and gaze around. A tiny speck of rock cast adrift from a vast expanse of glacier-shattered geology seems an unlikely place for a legend. But the half-kilometre reach between here and Squally Point lies at the only bend in the main body of the lake, where the water is choppiest, coldest and swirls through deep, underwater caverns. Home of the lake demon.

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