Does Oneida Lake have a sea monster?
A recent series of events have raised this very question. Boats receiving damage to lower units in unexplained ways, moorings that have suddenly gone wrong on calm days, anchors being entangled, strange waves, etc. Alone, these might not seem like much, but when you see this many problems, you begin to see a pattern. These strange occurrences have raised the question of there being something large and mischievous just below the surface of Oneida Lake.
Now, before you think I have spent too much time in the sun mowing or have inhaled the fumes of too much bottom paint, read on and see if this makes any sense.
Most large bodies of water around the world have had reports of “sea monsters” living in them. Scotland’s Loch Ness has Nessie, the Chesapeake Bay has Chessie, Ogopogo is said to prowl the waters of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, and not too far from here, Champ is said to live in Lake Champlain. All five Great Lakes have had sightings of creatures.
Most cryptozoologists will say that these creatures are more in our imagination than real. And those that do believe, think the creatures are left over from the age of dinosaurs, which were thought to be trapped in whatever body of water they were in. Of course that is not possible with Oneida Lake, as it was formed about 7000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, which was well after the dinosaurs were gone. As the glaciers melted they created the glacial lake, Lake Iroquois. As the glacier further receded, the water flowed out the St. Lawrence River, and the area took the shape familiar to us now and Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake were formed.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the area, the Oneida Indians called the lake Tsiouqi, meaning “white water”. If you have ever watched a storm blow across Oneida Lake, you’d say it was named correctly. The Iroquois Nation has many stories about monsters in the waters of what would become New York, and probably the earliest legends about Champ. So you see, there is a history of sea serpents in our friendly waters.
No one has actually seen the creature, and there are no pictures published, but I am sure in time, someone will get a photo. As you walk along the canal, or cruise the lake, it’s really not very difficult to imagine a creature lying in shallows soaking up the sun, or surfacing near a shoal after catching some fish.
The creature need not have been here since Oneida Lake formed, the lake has been connected to other waterways for many years. Oneida Lake was once fed by Wood Creek and Oneida Creek on the east end of the lake, and emptied out to Lake Ontario through the Oneida River to the Oswego River. This would have given access to any waterborne creature for thousands of years; and of course there are the canals.
The original Erie Canal never connected to Oneida Lake, but smaller “feeder” canals did. The Erie Canal was completed in the year 1823, connecting the Hudson River at Albany to Lake Erie at Buffalo on an east-west route, and north to Lake Champlain. It stands to reason that in the 185 years since the original canal system was completed, that fish were able to move through its locks; so why not something a little bigger? In 1918 the canal was upgraded to what we are off of today, it was originally named the Barge Canal and later renamed the Erie Barge Canal.
Holmes Marina and the other marinas off the canal are the remnants of Wood Creek. When the canal was being dug, portions of the creek were filled in. You can see the winding way of the original creek if look on a chart. Could this construction opened the doors to Oneida Lake to a sea creature?
Over the years different species have come and gone from Oneida Lake. Salmon once abounded in the lake, sturgeon were once thought to be gone, but are making a comeback. Other things have come and are not so welcome, Zebra muscles, Milfoil, Round Goby, and Sea Lamprey; Mother Nature always seems to find a way!
So as summer speeds by, and those small problems of boat handling happen, as props and lower units get “eaten” by strange things, when a wave rocks your boat unexpectedly, when you think you have hooked in to a big fish but loose your lure and line, it just might be something that you didn’t think you would find in a such a nice lake.
It might just be a sea monster!
If you should get a picture send it to me, I will post it on this page.