The White River Monster... - White River Monster, Arkansas - White River Monster, Arkansas
Editor's Note: This is page two of a historical narrative on the legendary White River Monster of Arkansas and southern
Please click here to read page one first and to see a possible photograph of the monster.


Not everyone was convinced. The Heraldo de Brownsville, a Texas newspaper, suggested that perhaps while the diver
was “down in the mud he might also bring up the next campaign issue.”

The local Chamber of Commerce, however, went into high gear. Signs were posted on roads throughout the region and
invitations went out to newspapers from throughout the region. Stores in town were closed and hundreds of people
gathered along the banks of the river to watch the dives. Newspaper reports indicate that people came from as far away
as California and reporters noted that the community received a much needed infusion of cash in the hard times of the
Great Depression.

Things did not go so well for Brown. Three times he went into the 60-foot deep water of the mysterious eddy by the
Bateman farm. He got stuck in deep silt and had to be pulled out with ropes. Then there was a problem with an air valve
that caused his rubberized dive suit to fill with air and send him bobbing to the surface. The third time wasn’t a charm
either. After an hour of poking around in the weeds and mud of the river bottom, Brown was pulled to the surface to
report that he had seen only a catfish and a dead log.

Probably the most interesting thing seen in the river that weekend, in fact, was not the White River Monster but the
homemade dive apparatus of a local man named David Smyth. Apparently inspired to innovation, he built his own diving
gear from “an old gasoline tank, rubber hose and bicycle pump manned from a boat.” He had no more luck than his
professionally-equipped rival.

Over the years that followed, sightings of the monster were reported now and then but failed to generate the publicity of
the 1937 episode. The most widely reported of these began in 1971 when Newport resident David Jenks reported
seeing a large creature in the river that he described as being gray and long with a “pointy bone” protruding from its
head. He thought it weighed around 1,000 pounds.

Two days later on June 28th, a man named Cloyce Warren produced a photograph of the monster. Extremely fuzzy, it
appears to show some kind of a hump floating in the river. The search was on once again.

The next major development came on July 5, 1971, when the county sheriff reported finding strange footprints on
Towhead Island just north of Bateman Eddy. He said they were 14 inches long and 8 inches wide with three long toes or
claws and a spur of some kind projecting from the heel.

Other sightings continued through the summer, including one by a fisherman and his grandson who said something
large had come up under their boat. Curiously, once again the sightings took place following heavy floods along the
White River.

In 1973, the Arkansas legislature approved a resolution designating a stretch of the White River from Newport to
Possum Grape as the White River Monster Refuge. It is unlawful to kill or otherwise harm the monster within the limits
of the refuge.

It is impossible to know whether there really is a White River Monster, but some of the eyewitness reports do raise an
interesting possibility. The 1912 sighting by the lumbermen working on the river south of Branson of a creature they
described as a gigantic turtle is definitely worthy of note. So too is the 1971 report by David Jenks of a creature with a
“pointy bone” projecting from its head as well as other eyewitness reports that describe the monster as a large hump
with its head hidden underwater or as having a jagged spine.

These various accounts when viewed together suggest that the monster could be a giant Alligator Snapping Turtle.
These giant turtles are some of the largest in the world and they are found in the rivers of Arkansas and other Southern
states. Not only do they have pointed heads, they also have three spiny ridges down their backs. They also can appear
grayish in color at times.

Could one grow big enough to be the White River Monster? The largest one ever caught was a 403 pound specimen
caught in the Neosho River of Kansas in 1937. It is thought that normal adults can reach weights of 300 pounds and
ages of 150 years. The creature seen in the river below Branson was estimated to weigh 300 pounds, while low-end
estimates of the weight of the White River Monster are given as around 600 pounds.

While it is a possibility, the real answer still remains out there, waiting to be unveiled. The best place to take a look at the
White River Monster Preserve is at Jacksonport State Park in Jacksonport, Arkansas. The park preserves the site of an
important early river port, a historic courthouse and one of the last original paddlewheel steamboats in the South.

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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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