Lair of a River Monster?
For nearly 100 years citizens
of Arkansas have claimed that
something strange lurks in
the White River.
The White River Monster - Newport and Jacksonport, Arkansas - The White River Monster, Arkansas - The White River Monster, Arkansas
The White River Monster?
This aerial photo appears to show a large mass
moving across the White River, trailed by a barely
visible serpentine wake.
(Please Click the Picture to Enlarge)
A River Monster in Arkansas?
by Dale Cox

In a deep eddy of the White River near the
town of Newport, Arkansas, believers say that
the South’s version of the Loch Ness
Monster resides.

The White River Monster has been reported
since at least the early 1900s, although
some monster fans have vaguely suggested
that it might have been involved in the sinking
of a boat on the river during the Civil War.
Boats were sunk in the White River during
the war, but nothing in the official records of
the Civil War armies and navies suggests a
monster was involved.

The first documented case of something
strange in the river actually dates from about
50 years later. In December of 1912, an
Arkansas newspaper reported that timber
workers floating rafts of cedar on the White
River below
Branson, Missouri, had seen
something large and strange on the bottom.

At first they thought it was a boulder, but then
they became convinced it was a gigantic

They estimated its weight at 300 pounds. The
report of the big river monster created quite a
sensation among the sportsmen of Branson,
and Tom Brainard, one of the local anglers,
organized a party to go and capture it. As it
will be impossible to gig the turtle they took a
number of strong ropes which they will
endeavor to loop over it and land it in that

The results of the expedition down the river
from Branson are not known, but twelve
years later the monster of White River
showed up further downstream in Arkansas.
According to some accounts, a Little Rock
woman described seeing it surface with a
blowing noise. She described it as gray with
some kind of strange hide.

The real explosion of publicity about the
White River Monster, however, came in 1937.
A farmer named Bramlett Bateman reported
that workers on his plantation had seen
something strange in a deep eddy of the
White River about 6 miles downstream from
Newport, Arkansas. Bateman went to take a
look for himself and described the creature
as being a car-length wide, three car-lengths
long and with a hide like an elephant.

It is worth noting that Bateman’s description
was very similar to the one reported around
the world four years earlier during the first
major blast of coverage of Scotland’s Loch
Ness Monster. It should also be noted that
Newport and much of the White River Valley
had been devastated by one of the worst
floods in Arkansas history earlier in 1937.
While some have suggested that this might
have caused the monster to become trapped
in the eddy below Newport, it must also be
mentioned that the conditions were also ripe
for a publicity stunt that would bring visitors
and desperately needed cash to the area.
One thing is certain, the nation’s newspaper
editors were looking for an exotic story to
splash across their pages and the White
River Monster fit the bill. The story spread
across the United States and by July 13,
1937, even the Trenton, New Jersey, carried
the story of a state bridge toll collector’s effort
to snag the beast:

Newport residents fashioned a big rope net
today in the hope of being able to snare a
mysterious “monster” whose presence in a
60-foot deep White River eddy six miles
south of here has frightened Negro plantation

W.E. Penix, State toll bridge collector,
directing the net making activities, ordered it
be constructed 40 feet long and 15 feet wide
with meshes of six or eight inches. He
estimated it would require a week or 10 days
to complete the net and said a convoy of
motorboats would sweep the eddy with it.

Six days later news went out over the
Associated Press that a “river bottom walker”
was going after the monster. Hired by the
local Chamber of Commerce, Charles B.
Brown of the U.S. Engineer’s Office in
Memphis reported that he did not expect to
encounter anything dangerous in the White
River, but would carry along a giant harpoon
just in case. He was convinced the monster
was a fish of some sort, most likely a giant

The Newport Chamber of Commerce, mean-
while, set up a fence and charged 25-cents
per person to look for the monster.
click here to continue the story...
Bateman Bend and Eddy
This U.S.G.S. map (click the
picture to enlarge) shows the
monster's traditional home.
White River near Branson
The first recorded encounter
with something strange in the
river took place near Branson,
Missouri, in 1912.
A Possible Explanation?
Many eyewitnesses have
described characteristics
similar to the American
Snapping Turtle. Could an
enormous turtle be lurking in
the White River?
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Photo, please
click the picture to enlarge.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.