Posted by: John Kirk on April 3rd, 2006
What Lurks in the Depths of Pitt Lake?
We have a myriad of cryptids in British Columbia, but there is one that just does not get the coverage it deserves. I’m talking about the giant black salamanders of B.C.
Some would say what’s the big deal with giant salamanders? They are found far and wide in China and Japan and are called Megalobatrachus. Whilst I concede that the Japanese and Chinese salamanders are pretty big beasties at about four feet long, the ones that are reported from B.C. are positively monstrous and start at six feet and some are said to be as long as long as 12 feet in length. Barrie Alden is the sort of King of Giant Salamanders here in B.C. because he, more than anyone else, has endeavoured to catalogue sightings and has looked for the amphibians all over the southern part of the province and Vancouver Island. We will look at his role in this a little later.
My friend Loren Coleman has written about the Giant Salamanders of the Trinity Alps of California and I would not at all be surprised if the salamanders found in my home province and those in the USA are actually the same species or closely related. After all, we are all part of the same contiguous stretch of North America.
My first awareness of the giant black salamanders came about through the late Jim Clark, my friend and co-founder with myself and Paul Leblond of the BCSCC. Jim had heard from an old-timer named Al Surette that he had seen these amphibians in Pitt Lake while prospecting in the area. Surette was astonished to see for himself and hear from others, reports of a large species of salamander that was far larger than the largest indigenous salamander which only measures 12 inches. While the recognized local species of giant salamander is reddish-brown, Surette’s salamanders were pretty much a uniform jet black from snout to tail. Surette recalled them being over six feet in length and equally comfortable on land or in water.
After his own experiences with the Pitt Lake variety, Surette was made aware of another population of either the same or similar amphibians resident on Vancouver Island. The location: Nitnat Lake. While Surette’s stories from Nitnat Lake are sketchy, Barrie Alden’s are more fleshed out. While in his capacity as president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, Alden was contacted by an aboriginal elder who told him that while he was working on replacing a wooden bridge at Nitnat Lake, he and a group of fellow workers were shocked to discover a black salamander between five and six feet long under some old wooden beams. The men took off and never returned to the site.
Nitnat Lake is a curious sort of lake as it has a very narrow opening to the Pacific Ocean at the west end. I have heard that sightings of the archetypal lake monster have been made in this lake, but I wonder, really, if this is not your typical lake monster, but was actually a member of the Pacific megaserpent tribe known as Cadborosaurus that had temporarily inhabited the lake after venturing in from the ocean. So in addition to megaserpents in the lake we have giant black salamanders.
Alden’s diligence led him to locate other locales where black salamanders had been sighted. This included Cultus Lake near Chilliwack where the local First Nations people knew it as the Sla’ li’ kum. Some specimens had been seen in the lake and in the feeder streams leading into it. Not far from Cultus is Chilliwack Lake where in 1902 Charles Flood and Green Hicks were shown what a local native described as black alligators. They were lying in the mud and were about five feet long. Now it does not take a genius to deduce that alligators would not survive in B.C.’s coldwater lakes and, believe you me, Cultus and Chilliwack are as cold as you get, even at some points in our northern summer.
Other salamanders of huge size – by their standards – of course, have also been seen by a number of people on the Fraser River between Rosedale and Hope. However it is at Pitt Lake where most of the recent sightings have been. The most recent that has filtered our way was in late 2005, but it was the 2002 sighting by Pitt River Lodge owner, Dan Gerak, which has considerable credibility. Gerak is a wildlife enthusiast, outfitter, guide and knows his way around Pitt Lake like few others.
On two occasions in late 2002, Gerak caught site of what he described as a giant black salamander in Pitt Lake where the lake meets the Pitt River at a bottleneck known as the Narrows. Gerak first saw the head of the animal followed by the body. It was a salamander in excess of five feet long. Gerak contacted sasquatch researcher Ken Kristian who passed the news onto me. Kristian knows Gerak well and has vouched that he is a man of integrity and not given to making things up.
Gerak’s sighting was by a seasoned outdoorsmen familiar with all the fauna in and around Pitt Lake. He does not misidentify animals. Encouraged by Dan Gerak’s sighting and reports of another one at the tail end of 2005. I’ll be going up to Pitt Lake, as I have already done at Cultus Lake, to see if my cryptid/sasquatch research team colleagues and I can locate this creature.
Incidentally Pitt Lake has also produced a number of sasquatch sightings and curiously the capture of a large horned lizard that has not yet been classified in the realms of zoology. That is a story for another time here on Cryptomundo.