This urban legend was told to me my whole life growing up, and it's still a huge part of local lore today. 

Flathead Lake, located in Northwest Montana, is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, and is a popular destination during the summer. It's almost 30 miles long and 16 miles wide and has several islands within the lake where people camp out and have picnics. It's one of the best tourist attractions in Montana. Many don't know this, but Flathead Lake has an urban legend that lurks below the surface, dating back over 100 years.

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The myth of the Flathead Lake Monster has been around for many years, and the number of claimed sightings is wild. Some have said the creature bears a likeness to the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, and others say it's more snake-like. 

Photo by Tyler Collins via Unsplash
Photo by Tyler Collins via Unsplash

When I was growing up in Polson, the story of the Flathead Lake Monster was introduced to me in elementary school. I always figured they wanted to prevent kids from swimming in Flathead Lake alone. The current of the lake is strong, and you can easily get swept away if you are young and not a strong swimmer. 

There are many supposed "sightings" of the monster; people have claimed to see it both on the surface of the lake and on their Fishfinders. The first claimed sighting was in 1889, and there have been at least 109 documented sightings since then, a majority of them describing similar water creatures, with long sleek bodies and black eyes.

A local fisherman used to tell us the Flathead Lake Monster was essentially just a huge Pike. These fish can grow up to several feet long and have nasty sharp teeth. So if you don't know fish, a massive Pike really is a water monster. 

Photo by Tim Marshall via Unsplash
Photo by Tim Marshall via Unsplash

Then again, maybe there is a monster in the depths of Flathead Lake. The lake is vast, and the depth of the water could hide something big. Many folks don't go deep scuba diving in Flathead Lake due to the currents, and maybe that's why this legend has lasted so long. 

The next time you are up at Flathead Lake and plan on going swimming, stick to the shore. Unless you want to possibly meet one of Montana's great urban legends. 

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