Gator or monster snake? Photo at South Carolina lake resurrects talk of tribal legend

Gator or monster snake? Photo at South Carolina lake resurrects talk of tribal legend
Legends of a monster snake in the Catawba River date back for centuries, and some cited proof of it in a grainy photo posted taken over the weekend at Sunset Point picnic area on Lake Wylie. (Source: Jessica Plate)

LAKE WYLIE, S.C. (Mark Price/Charlotte Observer) - The legend of a monster snake in the Catawba River dates back centuries, but some see new proof in a grainy photo taken over the weekend at Sunset Point on Lake Wylie.

The photo, posted online Sunday, shows what could be the head of something sticking out of the lake, with a sinuous wake spinning several feet behind it.

Within hours of it being posted online, talk of alligators, giant water snakes and a monster were being shared on, a community networking site. Lake Wylie, which does not have alligators, is a dammed section of the Catawba River, south of Charlotte.

“Lake Wylie monster?” Jessica Plate posted with her photo.

“I know this picture isn’t the greatest, but tonight while walking around the lake in our neighborhood we saw this 3 to 4 foot ‘thing’ moving in the water. At first, I thought it was a dog or deer, shoot, maybe a scuba diver!”

The photo was taken around 7:15 p.m. Saturday, and the thing appeared at first to be swimming toward her, then turned away, she wrote. “The wake it made was enormous! Please, does anyone know what it was!”

Plate told McClatchy news she wasn’t aware of the river snake myth until she started reading the responses posted to the photo.

She thinks the sensible explanation is that it was an alligator, despite the fact alligators don’t live in Lake Wylie. Commenters on the photo had a long list of other possibilities.

One person suggested it was a “a big nasty snake,” while another said it was nothing more than a floating log.

“Beavers, muskrats, and otters were a few other guesses,” Plate said. “There is no way, this creature was way too big!”

The Catawba Nation, a tribe of indigenous people based in the same area, has folklore that tells of multiple river monsters. One involves “monstrously large snakes” that prey on people in the rapids and giant “leech-like creatures,” reported John Hairr in the 2013 book “Monsters of North Carolina: Mysterious Creatures in the Tar Heel State.”

As in the case with the infamous Loch Ness monster, proof has never been found of anything large or monstrous in the river, though alligators have been found occasionally in the Catawba.

Lake Norman, another site near Charlotte created by damming the river, is said to be home to a creature called the Lake Norman Monster. A website is devoted to alleged sightings of it, which some say is a giant fish more than a monster snake.

Jessica Plate remains curious about whatever it was she saw and intends to keep investigating.

“Definitely will go back to the shore (with more people for evidence) to try and catch another glimpse!” she told McClatchy.