Arts & Culture

The Okanagan Lake Monster: Unraveling Kelowna's Ogopogo Myth

A large, green serpent with long horns and scales emerging from Okanagan Lake during a sunset.


In British Columbia's picturesque Okanagan Valley lies a mystery as deep and captivating as the waters of Okanagan Lake itself. Here, amidst the stunning natural beauty, thrives a legend that has captured imaginations for centuries—the tale of Ogopogo. This piece embarks on a journey to explore the enigmatic origins, cultural significance, and the intriguing evolution of Ogopogo, a myth that has become an emblem of Kelowna and a magnet for curiosity and speculation.

Historical Origins of the Legend

Long before European settlers cast their eyes on Okanagan Lake, the syilx/Okanagan people spoke of a spirit known as nx̌aʔx̌ʔitkʷ, or "Spirit of the Lake," a sacred entity that was neither malevolent nor benign. They paid respects to this spirit, especially near Rattlesnake Island, believed to be its dwelling. This ancient reverence, dating back centuries, possibly millennia, laid the foundation for the Ogopogo legend we know today​. The tale entered the annals of Western documentation with sightings in the mid-1800s, including the harrowing experience of John McDougall in 1855 and Susan Allison's sighting in 1872, which likened the creature to a dinosaur​.

Cultural Significance and Interpretations

The Ogopogo has evolved from a revered spirit in Indigenous folklore to a modern symbol of mystery and intrigue. The syilx/Okanagan's view of nx̌aʔx̌ʔitkʷ contrasts with the more ominous interpretations by early European settlers, who saw it as a demon requiring sacrifices for safe lake crossing. Today, Ogopogo transcends its mythical roots, becoming a vital part of Kelowna's cultural identity and commercial symbolism.

Scientific Perspectives and Sightings

While some see Ogopogo as a mythical creature, others speculate about its biological existence. Okanagan Lake, with its vast depths and unexplored caves, lends itself to such theories. Various sightings over the years, such as the Folden Film in 1968, have fuelled these speculations, though scientific analyses remain inconclusive. Skeptical viewpoints suggest these sightings could be misidentifications of wildlife like otters or beavers. However, the mystery persists, with each unexplained sighting rekindling the debate about Ogopogo's true nature​.

The Ogopogo Today

In contemporary times, the Ogopogo myth continues to thrive, influencing local tourism and captivating the public's imagination. The creature has even found protection under the BC Wildlife Act, reflecting its significance in the region's cultural and natural heritage​. While the scientific community remains skeptical, recent sightings, such as the one reported by Dale Hanchar in 2022, keep the legend alive and shrouded in mystery​.


The Ogopogo, from its ancient roots as a sacred spirit to its modern status as a cultural icon, embodies the enduring allure of the unknown. This enigmatic creature continues to captivate, challenge, and charm both residents and visitors alike. Whether myth or mystery, the legend of Ogopogo remains a fascinating chapter in the story of Kelowna.