Meet Idaho's mysterious creatures that aren't Bigfoot - East Idaho News
Idaho Monsters

Meet Idaho’s mysterious creatures that aren’t Bigfoot

  Published at  | Updated at

Yes, Bigfoot, the bane of photographers everywhere, gets most of the glory when it comes to mysterious creatures that probably/likely/most definitely/shouldn’t exist in Idaho. But with millions of acres of backcountry in the Gem State, maybe Sasquatch has some company!

In fact, if you venture outside civilization, you may run into one of the following cryptids (that is, creatures that may exist but whose existence is unconfirmed).

RELATED | Is there any truth behind these three Idaho legends?

Swan Valley monster

This beast is, well – hard to describe.

From A Book of Creatures:

The Swan Valley Monster made its appearance on August 22, 1868, in the otherwise tranquil locale of Swan Valley, Idaho. Its presence was witnessed and reacted to by an unnamed old-timer crossing the river at Olds Ferry.

The first thing he saw of the monster was an elephant’s trunk rising from below the surface and spouting water. This was followed by a snake-like head the size of a washtub, with a single horn that kept moving up and down, and long black whiskers on both sides of the face. It had 10-inch-long fangs and a red forked tongue that spewed green poison. When it hauled its massive body onto the shore, the old-timer noted that it must have been twenty feet long, and it stank to high heaven. A pair of wing-like fins – or fin-like wings – came out of the sides of its neck. Its forward half was like a snake, the thickness of a calf, greenish-yellow with red and black spots; this in turn led into a fish-like section with hand-sized rainbow scales shining in the sun; finally, the tail was a drab, scaly gray like a crocodile or lizard tail. Shiny black barbed spines, like those of a porcupine, lined its back from head to tail. Finally, it had twelve stubby legs that were easily missed at first glance; the first pair under the fins had hoofs, followed by two pairs of legs with razor-sharp claws, then a pair of hoofed feet, a pair of clawed feet, and another pair of hoofed feet near the tail.

Talk about a creature made out of spare parts!

The settler greeted it by shooting it in the eye, which seemed to kill it. He left to get a wagon and some help to haul off this curiosity – which smelled awful – but when he returned, it was gone.

Is it hiding in the depths of Swan Lake? If the monster does exist, it wouldn’t be out of the question for it to still be alive, as we don’t know its lifespan. A Greenland shark, for example, can live up to 500 years.

Bear Lake monster

Also in 1868 (apparently a big year for cryptids), Bear Lake colonizer Joseph C. Rich published a series of articles in the Deseret Evening News claiming locals had seen the monster in the water, according to this article. It was described as being like a crocodile or a walrus.

Rich later recanted his stories.

That would have been the end of it, except that in 2002, a local business owner said he saw the creature – first two humps above the surface, then its “dark green, slimy skin and beet red eyes.”

Modern technology hasn’t detected the monster in the lake. Read our story about it here.

Find out more here.


In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Idaho loves its water cryptids. One of the more well-known is Sharlie, which supposedly lives in Payette Lake near McCall. Native Americans living near the lake had a tradition of an evil spirit living there, and western settlers allegedly got their first glimpse in 1920.

Several groups of people claimed to see the beast in detail in August 1944: up to 35 feet long, with a dinosaur-type head, humps like a camel and a shell-like skin. People claimed to see it again in 1946.

Sharlie has its name because of a naming contest held by a newspaper in 1954. “Vas you der, Sharlie?” was a popular catchphrase on the radio spoken by Jack Pearl.

These days, people would probably name it Monster McMonsterface.


A similar beast elsewhere in Idaho is Paddler, which made its debut on Lake Pend Oreille, also in the 1940s. Get more information on sightings from this article from the Coeur d’Alene Press.


Let’s move from the water to land, from big to small.

Several Native American tribes have oral traditions of “little people” or “tiny people-eaters” in our region.

The Shoshone Indians of Wyoming know them as the Nimerigar. According to legend, they could attack with tiny bows and poisoned arrows. And if you were a Nimerigar, you wouldn’t want to get infirm or greatly ill – otherwise, your fellow tribal members might cure you with a deadly blow to the head.

These legends may have a basis in fact, as in 1932, gold diggers 60 miles from Casper, Wyoming, discovered a small mummy – 14 inches tall – sitting cross-legged on a ledge. They said the face looked like an old man. Also odd was the fact that its teeth were overly pointed.

Tests run on the mummy back then found it to be genuine, but it disappeared from public view decades ago.

Maybe the Nimerigar took it back …

See pictures of the mummy and find out more about the legend at this website. Also, check out this overview on Wikipedia.


wampus cat mascot
Left: The Wampus Cat mascot as it was introduced in 1935 in the Clark Fork Miner. Right: Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School’s modern logo

Stories of a big cat, sometimes with mystical powers – sources don’t agree on much – are all over the U.S. Check out a few of the legends here.

This cryptid has a place of honor in northern Idaho, as Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School uses the “Wampus Cat” as its mascot. Folks there are proud of their terrifying beast, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee.

Read this poem to find out more about this fierce feline and why people in Clark Fork revere it so much.

Idaho is a big place with lots of room for cryptids. Let us know your favorite Idaho creature of mystery in the comments!