Feature Article: The Flathead Monster
Article 1: This Date in History: March 25, 1996
Article 2: Your Ultimate Montana Guide & Other Books You Should Know About
Article 3: Medicine Rocks State Park
The Flathead Monster
If you think Scotland has a lock on lake monsters, you might be surprised to find Montana has its own version of “Nessie” in Flathead Lake. The monster was first spotted in 1889 by passengers of the lake steamer US Grant who first thought it to be an approaching boat. A passenger toting a rifle fired at it. He missed but did scare it (whatever it was) away. Since then, scores of people have viewed the creature. Sightings were documented in the early 1900s, 1912, 1919, 1922-23, 1934,1937, 1939 and regularly in every decade until today.
One of the more notable accounts came from a Polson couple and their four children on July 10, 1949. They reported a big fish near the Narrows. The fish appeared approximately 150 feet from them and had about a six foot length of its back visible. For over 30 seconds they watched it as it swam southeasterly leaving a wake 6” to 8” high as it slowly sank beneath the surface. They believed it to be a 10 to 12-foot long sturgeon. The man later became a chairman of the Montana State Fish and Game Commission.
1993 holds the record for the most sightingsnine in all. On July 13, near Woods Bay, a Seattle bank officer and a district sales manager actually managed to get some video footage of the creature. The video shows a dark shape on the surface. The sales manager swears he saw the eye’s of the monster before they were able to get the tape rolling. He described it as the head of a sturgeon, but the body of a large eel at least 12 feet long. On July 29 in the early afternoon, a vacationing Illinois policeman, his wife, and three children saw “Nessie” surface about 50 yards from their boat in calm waters near Wild Horse Island. The monster appeared to be following a school of bait-sized fish. The policeman described the creature as shiny with shiny humps, about 15 to 20 feet in length, and with a bowling ball-sized head. He claimed it looked like two seals swimming.
There seems to be no consistency to where or when “Nessie” will show. The creature has appeared at all times of the year, in all parts of the lake. Sightings of the creature have been reported by all manner of peopleteachers, professionals, farmers, ranchers, military officers, law enforcement officers, business people, mill workers, and tourists of all ages.
There was a time when folks thought the mystery was solved. On May 28, 1955, the late C. Leslie Griffith claimed he snagged a big sturgeon near Dayton on the western side of the lake. He finally managed to gaff it several miles downlake near Big Arm State Park, after fighting it for nearly five hours. Not everyone believed his story. Some believe the 7-1/2 foot,181 lb. white sturgeon was trucked in from somewhere else. The giant fish can be seen in the Polson Flathead Historical Museum today. Griffith did swear in court under oath that the fish was caught in Flathead Lake. A dispute later arose between Griffith and Big Fish Unlimited Inc. as to ownership of the fish and distribution of money from showing it. The case went all the way to the Montana Supreme Court. BFU retained ownership but had to give Griffith a cut of the proceeds.
Despite Griffith’s catch, sightings have continued throughout the following decades. Myth or reality? Most agree that Montana’s mysterious version of the Lochness Monster is a tale worth believing. Do you believe?
Reprinted from “The Ultimate Montana Atlas & Travel Encyclopedia.”
This Date in History: March 25, 1996
A Stand-off with Montana’s Free Thinkers
After two frustrating years dealing with the Freemen organization’s anti-government philosophies, FBI agents arrested three Freemen near Brusett, Montana (north of Jordan). The arrest infuriated the Freemen organization and initiated an eighty-one day siege at the group’s isolated headquarters. The nearly three-month standoff was a constant national news item, casting a negative limelight on Montana and its residents. Many newspapers, magazines, and television shows poked fun at the state’s residents, broadly calling all Montanans gun-loving, anti-government loonies. The situation was only made worse when isolated Lincoln resident, Ted Kacynski, was arrested and charged as the Unabomber. Although Montana continued to receive its fair share of criticism for harboring radical thinkers, the attention finally dissipated a few months later.
Your Ultimate Montana Guide
The most famous explorers relied on a knowledgeable guide, and now you can too. The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia is your essential reference guide for discovering every corner of Montana mile by mile. User friendly and packed with everything you need to know about the Treasure State, this single volume offers more information than nearly a dozen other top Montana guidebooks combined! Discover for yourself today why everyone is raving about this bestseller!
Think you already know everything about Montana? Then consider exploring the Cowboy State. The Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia offers the same comprehensive information and easy to use format used in the Montana book. Explore the mountains, deserts, hot springs, state parks, and history of this neighboring western state!
Last but certainly not least, be sure to watch for the first edition release of The Ultimate Idaho Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia due out later this year!
Medicine Rocks State Park
25 miles south of Baker on Montana Highway 7. 230-0900.
In the late 1800s, Teddy Roosevelt said the area was “as fantastically beautiful a place as I have ever seen.” Covering one square mile, Medicine Rocks was referred to by the Sioux Indians as “Rock with Hole In It” due to the tunnels and holes burrowed in the stone. They also called it “Medicine Butte” and believed that this was a sacred area where spirits resided. The medicine man often prayed here, but it is said that the tribe itself camped on the outskirts. The sandstone formations have been created by years of weathering. Carved by the wind into odd shapes, some of the pillars tower 80 feet above the pine-clad prairie. Millions of years ago a flood plain flowed through these high plains, and as the climates changed sandstone was created. Many fossils are embedded in the rock formations, telling a story of the past. Indian artifacts can be seen ranging from tepee rings to a few rock drawings. The area is known for its abundant wildlife, including deer, pronghorn antelope, grouse, pheasants, bass and bluegill.
Medicine Rocks State Park manifests but a small portion of a complex sequence of geological events that took place some 50 million years ago. At that time, a huge inland lake covered much of the Northern Great Plains. The climate was warm and tropical. This was the age of the mammal, for the giant lizard-like dinosaur had already succumbed to changes in its environment. The swampy, forested margins of this huge, ancient sea teemed with mollusks (clams and other forms of ocean life), turtles and small mammals, as well as palm trees, water lillies and other vegetation. Fossils, or the preserved remains attesting to the existence of prehistoric plants and animals, have been found in the rocky formations of the park.
Cutting through the lush swamps were slowmoving, shallow, silt-laden rivers. These rivers, resembling present day waterways in the southeastern United States, transported sediments from the newly forming Rocky Mountains to the west. Some of these sediments were deposited as sandbars and channel deposits. Medicine Rocks represents the fossilized river channel of one of these ancient streams. Through the ensuing ages, the climate changed. Dryer conditions caused the inland sea to retreat, leaving the continent high and dry. Some streams dried, others changed their courses. Compaction, great pressure and eons of time turned the sediments to sandstone.
Some parts of the sandstone were cemented together more solidly than other areas, making them harder and more weather resistant. Over the ages wind, water, and temperature extremes constantly wore away the rock. The more resistant materials survived this weathering process, called erosion, and are the knobs and pillars we view today.
The park’s formations owe their grossly pockmarked features to natural and dynamic events, for it is the selective weathering process that gives the rock a Swiss cheese-like effect. Geologic processes are at work today just as they were millions of years ago. Pounding wind, runoff from snowmelt and rain, and freezing and thawing action continuously eats away at the land, giving shape, form and life-like qualities to the Medicine Rocks.
There are approximately 15 camping sites with vault toilets, a group-use area, grills/fire rings, picnic tables, and drinking water. The RV/trailer size limit is 20’ and campers may stay 14 days during a 30-day period. Due to its “Primitive” park designation, it is a pack-in/pack-out site and there are no fees to enter or stay there. The park is open all year. For more information, call 406-232-4365 in the area.