Research: Meet your North Idaho lake monster, Paddler

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Mike Kincaid of Hayden took this shot of Lake Pend Oreille with his wing-mounted GoPro on Sept. 12. Alas, no Paddler sightings that day. “Paddler” is Lake Pend Oreille’s own legendary monster, reminiscent of the Loch Ness legend.

It pays to have pilot friends.

After reading my Nessie column last week writer, photographer and pilot extraordinaire M.K. passed on a news tip: Pend Oreille has one. A monster, that is.

To be fair, he didn’t exactly say “monster.” But he did send me a link to a 2015 article by nationally renowned mystery-enthusiast Nick Redfern about “Paddler,” Lake Pend Oreille’s resident mystery beast. And M.K. did joke that he’s looked for it, but never seen it.

At least, he doesn’t think so.

Beast-like sightings in Sandpoint’s 1,150-foot-deep lake have occurred sporadically since the 1940s. The first sighting was allegedly by someone at the Navy’s Farragut Training Station (later denied).

According to Redfern, in 1985 a woman named Julie Green and her friends were several hundred feet away when they saw “something huge and fantastic. It was a large, gray-colored thing which raced across the lake, seemingly partially above and below the surface of the water.”

More such sightings followed in the 1990s. On March 29, 2007, The River Journal photographer Jay Mock captured a dark blob surfacing above the water. You can see the photo and read about possible explanations at https://bit.ly/2mcgWIi, and many other cryptozoological sites.

The obvious explanation is Farragut’s submarine station, sited at Pend Oreille since 1942, a location chosen by Eleanor Roosevelt. With secret (and not-so-secret) government submarine activity going on in North Idaho’s giant, sea-like lake, Paddler’s probably a big submarine skimming the surface, no matter what the Navy says, right?

Maybe so, even if it doesn’t always behave very machine-like, according to witness descriptions.

Or maybe it’s a prehistoric creature who somehow survived the ages. Or a giant eel or family of giant eels — the latest scientific explanation of the Loch Ness monster(s).

Maybe Nessie sprouted wings and emigrated, pterodactyl style.

Whatever Paddler may be, I’d think twice before swimming far from shore.

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Today’s weird word — which some call a pseudoscience — is cryptozoology: The study of, and search for, legendary animals.

•••

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who’s well and truly done with sea monsters. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.

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