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Paddling in the Pend Oreille

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What lurks in the lake at the heart of the Valley of Shadows?

“Sea Waves are green and wet, but up from where they die, rise others vaster yet, and those are brown and dry.” Robert Frost

 

I know that Jody Forest got the jump on this topic before I began doing this column, but the Pend Oreille Paddler does have a Valley of Shadows twist.

A beast lurking in the depths of Lake Pend Oreille: fact or imagination? From most accounts, sightings of this supposed lake creature (I hate to use the term ‘monster’) if it exists, here or elsewhere around the world, are likely nothing more than animals we, in all our wisdom are simply unfamiliar with as of yet, or animals we thought had gone extinct millions of years ago.

Two examples in recent decades are the two new species of deer discovered in the jungles of Southeast Asia, one of which appears to have gill-like slits on each side of its muzzle.

The early 1940s was when the Navy began using Bayview as a submarine research installation. This is when reports of large objects that witnesses caught glimpses of as they moved quickly and silently through the water, became more prevalent. Although, there had been sightings much earlier.

The Navy denied it ever used manned subs in the lake, but then, in 1965, one of its contractors, the nternational Submarne Engineering Group” out of Canada, sad it used a mini-sub to train personnel in torpedo recovery in ‘some’ U.S. lakes.

Just over a decade ago, the Navy finally admitted it has been testing models of submarines in the lake for years. “Small Subs Provide Big Payoffs for Submarine Stealth.”)

Did the Navy create the story of the Paddler for cover of the submarine test program? Perhaps in the same way the government might have encouraged and then debunked reports of UFOs to mask its own test aircraft?

Lake Pend Oreille is much larger and deeper than Loch Ness, which is supposed to support a large family of creatures, whether you believe there are Loch Ness Monsters or not.

In the mid-80s, James MacLeod (my English instructor at North Idaho College for two years) headed a study of the lake and the Pend Oreille Paddler. It concluded that, discounting the submarine theory, the Paddler might be a minimal-sized population of large, prehistoric sturgeon that inhabit or occassionally visit the lake.

Now let’s consider the view of some local, common, everyday shore dweller/fisherman. Maybe the sturgeon story has some merit, but that doesn’t fully explain why a friend of my father’s, from the depths of the ‘30s, told stories while fishing for white fish for the tables of fancy, Spokane eateries, claiming to have seen ripples and humps and what appeared to be a head in the water fifty yards away from his boat. Doesn’t sound like a sturgeon, though it may sound like a tall tale.

There has been, over the decades, speculation that an underwater passage exists between Pend Oreille and Preist Lake—who knows what may dwell down there.

There have been enough questions that at least challenge the Navy sub theory to warrant a continued open mind for the Pend Oreille Paddler.

On another matter... does anyone recall seeing the house floating down the river about 30-some-odd years ago that got caught in the train bridge? I was relatively young and would like to know some details if any of our readers has more information.

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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

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Valley of Shadows, Pend Oreille Paddler

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