The fiberglass statue of Ogopogo is stop # 24 on the Public Art in Kelowna tour. You will find the statue at the entrance to Kerry Park, at the intersection of Bernard and Abbott. If you want to find The Real Ogopogo, on the other hand, you’re on your own.
The statue is by Peter Soelin and dates to 1960. It’s a favourite spot for tourist photos. Ogopogo is the palindromic lake monster said to live in Okanagan Lake.
Some think Ogopogo is s sturgeon; others look for the lake monster. The name Ogopogo is derived from a music hall song that was popular in the 1920’s:
I’m looking for the Ogopogo, the funny little Ogopogo
His mother was an Earwig and his Father was a Whale.
I’m going to put a little bit of salt upon his tail.
They just don’t write ’em like that anymore.
First Nations people referred to Ogopogo as N’HA-A-ITK which translates to “Lake Demon”. Legend has it that the creature was actually a demon-possessed man who had murdered a local known as Old Kan-He-K. (Lake Okanagan was named in his honour.) As punishment, the native gods turned the murderer into the giant sea serpent so he would remain at the scene of the crime for all eternity.
To appease the monster N’HA-A-ITK (Ogopogo), the people offered small animals at its legendary lair/submarine caves off Squally Point near Rattlesnake Island. Ogopogo frequents the waters between Rattlesnake Island and the Mission area of Kelowna, and has made journeys to both ends of the lake. Recorded sightings date as far back as the early 1800’s. In 1860, John McDougal lost his team of horses when they were pulled under as he was swimming them across the lake.
Ogopogo is dark green in colour, estimated at one to two feet in diameter with a length ranging between 15 to 50 feet. Ogopogo’s head is said to resemble that of a horse or goat head with a beard. Or a large sturgeon.
In 1926 the Government announced that the new ferry being built for travel across the Okanagan Lake would also be equipped with special “monster repelling devices.” No word on whether the W.R. Bennett Bridge is similarly equipped, but there have been Ogopogo sightings.
You can find out more about Public Art in Kelowna here. Grab a PDF of the brochure here. If you’re reading this before September 4, 2011, you still have time to get to the “Please Touch the Art” exhibit at the Kelowna Art Gallery. It’s a wonderful exhibit, and has inspired me to visit every piece of public art in Kelowna. I hope eventually to blog about all 59 sites. Click on “Public Art” in the “What’s here” box on the right side of this page to see all the Public Art posts on the blog.