Columbia River Monster Report from Portland, OR

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word cryptid as “An animal whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated, such as the yeti.”  For the following witnesses to living cryptids, there is no dispute.  In this series of National Cryptid Society’s case files, you will read what the witnesses have experienced in their own words.

Keep an open mind when reading these accounts, and also remember one’s perception and memory of an event can be influenced by the emotions felt at the time of the occurrence. The contributors to this series of articles are doing the best they can to recount what are in some cases very shocking and traumatic experiences.

If you have a personal cryptid sighting story you would like to tell us, please visit our “Make A Report” page on this site.

NCS Case File #62: Possible Columbia River Monster Report from Portland, Oregon

Submitted by: Rachellecolumbiarivermap

Location: Columbia River, Portland, Oregon (near the PDX Airport)

Date: 2011-2012

“I’ve been thinking about an experience I had a few years ago and did a little digging. I thought that I should report this, but didn’t know who to report it to. Sometime in the winter between 2011-2012, my friend, sister, children, dog, and I were playing on the shore of the Columbia River during the night and saw something that I relate to the stories of the local Ogopogo, “Claude,” or “Caddy.” It was probably about 8pm, so it was dark.

It was at what we then-called it “Dittler’s Beach” (now this area has been changed into a park and is called “Broughton Beach”) across from the PDX Airport. My kids were young, only around 3-4 years old, and we were driving around with my friend and my sister and dog headed toward home. We decided to stop at Dittler’s and walk the beach and let the dog run for a bit and the kids play. This area was popular to take an evening stroll and it wasn’t too cold out, so it makes me (try) to think that it was late fall or early spring.

We were walking along the beach close to the water. My dog was playing in the water and swimming around in the shallows. After walking a ways down the shore, we saw something about 20 feet out in the water. It was large and black and we thought it was a sea lion at first, which are really common in the area during different salmon runs. I was afraid that my dog and the animal may have a bad interaction, so I tried to get him to come ashore and out of the water (he was an American Bulldog and could definitely approach things in a dominant manner).

When we got him out of the water, we continued walking and the animal continued to swim directly adjacent to us, but came in closer to shore. Bosco was running in the sand and I thought maybe the animal was intrigued by him or maybe wanted to cause him harm so we tried to keep him away from the water, which was difficult, but we were also intrigued to see the sea lion swimming so closely to us.

As it got closer, we started doubting whether it was a sea lion. It was black and shiny like a sea lion can be when wet, but it’s head was not the same and it swam in an almost snake-like, zig-zag manner. Me and my sister were really intrigued. My friend was laughing, saying, “Oh, it’s just a seal.” We kept trying to make out what it was because it was dark and it was in the water so visibility was not the best. It swam with it’s head out of the water and one large hump trailing behind. It’s hard to estimate size because of the lack of light, but it was much larger than a sea lion but not as big as the other sightings I’ve read about (not a 20 foot long animal). It seemed like it was really curious about us and followed us along the water for a long time, very closely, watching us.

We came to a group of ducks on the water that seemed afraid of it and quickly scattered and flew away when they noticed it. It had a long snout and obvious head. It was thick at the neck and seemed thick-bodied. I couldn’t tell eye color, but they were fixated on us. When my dog made a few lunges into the water, it didn’t try to swim away and didn’t even seem disturbed, which disturbed me even more thinking maybe it was hunting my kids or dog.

We moved up the shore a bit to cause distance but be able to observe it. As I said, my kids were small and young then and I didn’t know what it was or what it liked to eat. Obviously the ducks were frightened by it. It stopped and started swimming, all with its head above water, sometimes closer to shore, sometimes further out, making deliberate moves to and fro but not leaving us for probably 10 minutes before it finally put its head under the water and disappeared.

My sister and I used to talk about it a lot and looked it up online. We saw things about Claude, about Caddy, about the ogopogo, and about a general “Columbia River Monster.” It seemed to really mesh with others reports. I am a definite believer in the Columbia River Monster now. I don’t know what else it could be. It was not a sturgeon, salmon, or sea lion like scientists often hypothesize.

I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve seen plenty of those and of all the other normal wildlife out there. I’ve never seen this. And this thing was deliberately swimming next to us and watching us. It was definitely some sort of reptilian creature, not a fish. It liked its head above water. It did not have gills. I did not see any type of ears. I did not notice fur, but it was dark and the animal was wet.

It did not swim like a mammal (whale) or fish, it swam more like a snake, long and twisty. It twisted its body back and forth to swim. I’ve seen a lot of sea lions, and they do not swim like this did. I think it was really long, the way that its body moved. We didn’t hear it make any noise or heavy breathing like sea lions do, either. It was an animal, not a log or drift wood. It deliberately made movements and actions and had eyes that watched us.

My sister has since tragically passed on and I am no longer friends with the other adult person that was there. My kids were too young to vouch for what we saw, but they do remember the time we saw it. I never thought to report it before, but I’ve been reading a cryptozoology book recently and thought that adding this sighting may help to continue trying to prove that this thing is real.”

Feedback from the Cryptozoology Community

Scott Mardis

  • Scott Mardis has been an active field investigator of the Lake Champlain “Monster” since 1992. He is a former volunteer worker in the Vertebrate Paleontology Dept. of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences (1990-1992). He co-authored a scientific abstract about the Lake Champlain hydrophone sounds for the Acoustical Society of America in 2010. Mardis will also be a featured researcher in the upcoming documentary, “CRYPTOZOOLOGIST.”

Generally, “Caddy” reports (which basically include any kind of sea serpent-ish creature reported from Baja California, Mexico to Alaska) breakdown into two categories: serpentine creatures like an eel or a snake body OR large bodied creatures with long, slender necks resembling a plesiosaur. 

This is the first type:

From Observations of large unidentified marine animals in British Columbia and adjacent waters / by Paul H. Leblond and John Sibert

This is the second type:

From Observations of large unidentified marine animals in British Columbia and adjacent waters / by Paul H. Leblond and John Sibert

There are exceptions sometimes but the general pattern seems to reflect these two types. These might be just variations of the same type of animal but this is not clear at all. From the method of propulsion, it is suggested that this was a serpentine creature. This obviously brings to mind the “Cadborosaurus willsi” type specimen, recovered from the stomach of a sperm whale at Naden Harbour, B.C., Canada in 1937.

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The carcass itself is lost but photographs remain and the formal description of this animal is based on those images. It remains highly controversial. Some think it was simply a mutilated shark carcass, similar to this one.


Though the scientists who described it thought it was some kind of mutated marine reptile, the features and body shape are a better match for the presumably extinct whale, Basilosaurus cetoides, which has a known fossil record between 40-34 million years ago.

A mysterious creature was filmed by Shell Oil workers somewhere near the coast of Oregon at some date between 1959 and 1963. Stills that remain from the video show body coils that resemble the coils seen on the 1937 carcass. It’s possible the animal in the Shell Oil video could have been a colony of salps or tunicates.

“Santa Barbara, CA, 1966. A 15-20 foot long “serpent” moved by underwater camera several times [film clip to the side]. Motion was “spiraling”. It had “rudimentary” head but noticeable eyes and mouth. A long thin tail completed the creature.” -via CRYPTOMUNDO

I think the climate up where this sighting happened is too cold for the Oarfish ( and the color is wrong, too. Assuming the creature was NOT serpentine, plesiosaurs are believed to have swam with their backs protruding out of the water as this witness described, unlike seals. 

Source: Henderson, D. M. (2006), Floating point: a computational study of buoyancy, equilibrium, and gastroliths in plesiosaurs. Lethaia, 39: 227–244. doi:10.1080/00241160600799846

There is also the Leatherback Turtle, which can get 10 feet long (examples below).

Leatherback (source)

The witness said the creature seemed interested in the ducks and the ducks seemed afraid. There is one well known Caddy report where one was seen to eat a duck in 1933.

There is a report from 2004 of witnesses reporting seeing one of the creatures in Lake Champlain attack as seagull. There is fossil evidence of Mesozoic plesiosaurs preying on birds and pterosaurs.

Denver Michaels

After reading the witness statements regarding his account of a strange water creature in the Columbia River, I am convinced that [the witnesses] had a “Caddy” sighting.
Caddy is short for Cadborosaurus willsi; a name that is a combination of Cadboro Bay, its purported home in British Columba, and the Greek word sauros, which means reptile or lizard. Of course, other names have been attributed to the creature; it was once widely referred to as Amy, especially during the 1930s.

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The serpentine creature, or creatures, are known to roam North America’s Pacific Northwestern coast. Spotted as far north as Alaska, and as far south as San Francisco, there are over 300 documented sightings of something resembling a “sea serpent.”
With a known cryptid swimming along the coast of the Pacific Northwest, it isn’t too far of a stretch to believe that something may have made its way inland accessing the Columbia River. Given the curiosity described by the witness, and the fact that was on the smaller end of Caddy descriptions, it is possible that the witness saw a creature that had not yet reached adulthood. Interestingly, there have been reports of babies; the most notable is that of Captain William Hagelund.
Captain Hagelund recounted capturing what could be described as a baby cadborosaurus in his memoirs that were published in his book, Whalers No More. The strange reptile was only 16 inches in length and had armor-like scales and an elongated snout. The captain’s intentions were to take the creature to a British Columbia Fisheries station where it could be identified. However, the animal had been placed in a bucket of seawater and Hagelund feared that the animal might not survive the night. He drew a sketch of the creature and released it back into the ocean.

Source: Scientific American

In my opinion, the witness saw what may have been something in between a normal-sized Caddy and Captain Hagelund’s baby Caddy that briefly left the Pacific and wondered up the Columbia River.


Andrew McGrath

This is a compelling eyewitness report that features some very interesting physical and behavioural characteristics. I would start out by saying that the witness’s description of the creature, leaves little room for it to be any other type of known animal.  Although, the witness initially seemed to want to believe that she was observing a sea lion, this artifice, of its being this oft mistaken monster imposter was soon dispelled. She goes on to describe:

A large black, shiny animal, that reminded her of how a sea lion looks when it’s wet. An animal that swam with its head out of the water in an almost zigzag, snake-like manner, having one visible hump trailing behind it. The creature had a long snout and obvious head, that was thick at the neck and seemed thick bodied as well.

The witness could see the animals eyes clearly enough to discern that they were fixed upon them. Her overall impression of the creature seems to be that it was ‘reptilian’.

The behaviour of the animal is also interesting. This animal seems to shadow or ‘stalk’ the group from the water, about 20 feet from shore, paralleling their position on the beach and showing some interest in their dog, who, being  of a dominant character, does not appear to be alarmed by the presence of this creature and even has to be stopped from entering the water.

The witness describes how the creature follows them from the water, sometimes coming close to shore, sometimes moving further away, but that


throughout the 10 minutes they observed it, it kept pace its eyes fixed on them. I was particularly interested to see that the ducks viewed the creature as a predator and that their reaction to it also struck a chord with the witness, in that she felt that the animal may have been considering either her dog or her children for its next meal.

If this animal is a Cadborosaurus, then it is certainly not an adult specimen, as they have been reported at lengths between 40 to 75 feet and the witness indicates that it is large than a sea lion but still well below 20 feet in length.

I think that what was observed on this occasion could have been a juvenile specimen, cutting its teeth so to speak; and practicing at being a predator from the safety of the water. One thing that we can be certain of, thankfully, is that the animal did not make any attempt at preying on any of the party of witnesses or their dog; and its behaviour depicts an animal far more curious than predatory in nature, or perhaps an even mix of both?  Stalking from the safety of the water and observing, perhaps for the first time, creatures altogether alien to it; this creature, emboldened by the darkness, incidentally afforded the witness a unique observation of both its unusual form and habitude.

There is another wonderfully corroborative report from the Columbia River, which occurred sometime in March 2011, that not only describes a similar creature being sighted, albeit one of a much larger size, but also features a photo of the purported creature.


On this occasion, the witness, who had been walking along the Astoria Waterfront, whilst taking some photos, spotted something strange in the water, that was about: ’15 meters in length, with what looked to be a long, serpentine body with a blunt head and a hump at the back’. A description, which matches, in silhouette at least, the photo taken by the witness.

Time and time again, witnesses of these strange animals, which are often sighted  in these very busy waterways, which stretch throughout our towns and cities, describe seeing creatures of a reptilian or prehistoric nature, both impressive in size and appearance, seemingly living on into our present age and providing us with a sense that there is still so much  ‘awe and wonder’ out there in our world, for us to experience.

Here is a related article by Andrew McGrath: Continental Cousins – The Return of the European Nessie!

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2 thoughts on “Columbia River Monster Report from Portland, OR

  1. I was just telling my wife, about what I saw when I was 14,. I am 59 today.. And at her suggestion, I googled it. And for whatever it is worth, it matches the picture of the snake looking thing, with only one difference, the head did not come up quite as far as the picture. The thing that i found odd, was it seemed to be swimming upstream, in a straight line, not the side to side motion i would expect from a anaconda. Anyway it always stuck with me, how it could propel itself like it did.


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