By : Dennis Stein
All throughout the early history of the Thousand Islands, tales have arisen of very large snake or eel-like creatures being sighted in the St.Lawrence, and the eastern basin of Lake Ontario. Some reported as being 40 to even 80 feet in length, and resembling huge snakes or eels, some stories say the beast has but one eye, and some even tell of antlers protruding from the head. As early as 1805, four fishermen reported seeing an animal near an overturned rowboat which they estimated at 150 feet long, coming toward them. They rowed for their lives, and as they reached shore, the beast was said to have gone back and forth in the water, as if daring the men to venture out again into the river.
Algonquin and Iroquois Indians told stories of a race of serpents that inhabited the area, and Lake Ontario. Early explorers, pioneers, and native people reported seeing the great 'Kingstie' as it came to be known, a one-eyed sea serpent basking on Wolf and Snake Islands, until its last sighting in 1935.
A great hoax was launched in 1934, near Kingston in Cartwright Bay, where three men, who wouldn't confess for 30 years, constructed a sea monster using floating barrels, topping it off with a dragon-like head. People reported seeing this strange creature for weeks. But despite the pranks, the stories persist.
In July of 1888, The New York times published an article detailing a sighting of a mysterious creature near Round Island. The thousand Islands was in its golden era at the time, a popular tourist destination for the wealthy. A man by the name of Sikes, from New York, had set out to catch pickerel. They were aboard a sailboat near Kingston. When Sikes told his oar men to bring them into a marshy area beside Round Island, he reported seeing something black moving rapidly in the shallow waters. At first he thought it might be a duck or some other type of water bird. Upon getting closer, he believed it was the head of a water serpent of immense size. The creature he described was said to be 30 feet long, when they were a mere 40 yards from the creature. It disappeared, and did not return, but the men believed that it had not left that part of the river. As a result, young ladies visiting the area would not venture out in steam powered boats without high gunwhales, to the disappointment of skiff owners.
So is there anything to these stories? Decorative drawings on old maps depicted sea monsters for ages, and stories and sightings have continued throughout the ages, not only by fishermen and explorers, but at times by large groups of people. Strange sightings of large snake-like creatures have persisted, as recently as 2004 in the Cataraqui river.
Some speak of seeing huge snakes, others a dragon-like creature with a mane of sorts. Some have reported a one-eyed beast, with small legs, all the stories confirming an enormous length. Is it possible that some large aquatic animal lives in the eastern areas of Lake Ontario, or in the Thousand Islands? Has it somehow avoided the large numbers of people and boats which use the river each summer, lurking in remote areas of the seaway? Does the 'Kingstie' actually exist?
It is another wonderful example of legends and lore of our unique area and heritage. Whether or not this creature or creatures really exist is inconsequential compared to the stories themselves. But hey, I know I will be looking down into the water with a little more of a keen eye this summer...