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WARNING: Know the Octopus of Oklahoma Legend Before Taking a Dip in the Water

The opening scene from the old classic movie, “Jaws,” encapsulates some swimmer’s worst nightmare…being eaten alive in the water. The U.S. Midwest doesn’t have man-eating sharks in its murky waters, but Oklahoma may have something even more disturbing.

The Octopus of Oklahoma may patrol the lakes there on a hunt for more than fish. What is this giant angry cephalopod, and how can you avoid him?

Let’s look into both fact and fiction of a story that has more arms than a marine mollusk. 

Are There Octopus in Oklahoma Lakes? 

According to Native American legend, a freshwater species of octopus lives in at least four man-made lakes in Oklahoma. It may sound unbelievable, but a fisherman found an octopus in Lake Conway, Ark., in 2003. Officials believe someone had dumped it in the lake when it got too big for an aquarium.

This event might perpetuate the rumors. Some claim to have sighted a creature several times, but no one has any physical evidence of its existence.

What Is the Octopus of Oklahoma Legend?

An unusual creature that scours the depths of at least four lakes in Oklahoma is reputedly looking for human flesh. The Octopus of Oklahoma has terrorized the water for over 200 years, and some blame it for several unexplained drownings.

Legend says that this cephalopod is the size of a horse, with eight long tentacles. It has leathery reddish-brown skin and can live in freshwater environments.

Pro Tip: The Octopus of Oklahoma isn’t the only creature you should be on alert for while in Oklahoma. Discover more about What Are the Most Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma?

Octopus sleeping on rocks
According to legend, an octopus can be found lurking beneath the waters of Lake Tenkiller.

Which Lakes in Oklahoma Are Thought to Have Octopus? 

The Octopus of Oklahoma reportedly lives in Lake Tenkiller in the east-central part of the state. Others have reported the creature in Lake Norman and Lake Thunderbird in the south-central portion. Some also believe it resides in Lake Oolagah, an hour north of Tulsa.

Each of these lakes is man-made, created by damming rivers to provide watersheds and prevent flooding. In turn, the lakes offer enormous outdoor recreation opportunities and possibly an occasion to make a good story like the Octopus of Oklahoma.

Can You Swim in Lake Tenkiller? 

Lake Tenkiller is part of the Cherokee Nation and has some of the clearest water in the state. That makes the lake an excellent destination for diving and swimming. People also enjoy boating and fishing. So swimmers should stick with designated areas set apart from boating locations.

Visitors can see into the waters of Lake Tenkiller from 8 to 28 feet deep. So those that have reported seeing the Octopus of Oklahoma in this body of water would have had a clear view.

Women entering into Lake Tenkiller
Lake Tenkiller is said to be the home of the Octopus of Oklahoma.

Why Is Lake Thunderbird So Dirty? 

Lake Thunderbird lies just southeast of Oklahoma City in an area of growth and construction. The waters don’t meet water quality standards because of sediments, mainly from erosion from construction sites along the lakeshore. Add that to the constantly blowing wind in the area, and the waters of Thunderbird churn with dirt and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphate, which can generate algae.

Even though it doesn’t offer the clear waters found in Lake Tenkiller, Lake Thunderbird allows swimming and has two beaches set aside for that activity.

Additionally, none of the sediments in the lake are harmful. And because of its proximity to a major metropolitan area, Thunderbird sees many visitors year-round. Some have reportedly seen the Octopus of Oklahoma within its shallow depths. However, it is hard to believe because of the sediment-filled waters.

Why Have There Been So Many Drownings in Lake Tenkiller and Lake Thunderbird?

Some blame the high number of unexplained drownings on the lakes on the Octopus of Oklahoma attacking swimmers. And the fact someone found an octopus in an Arkansas lake gives faith that they can live in freshwater for a short period. Many claim to have sighted the creature, but none of the drowning victims have lacerations from tentacles on their bodies.

Another explanation for the deaths may have something to do with the high rate of alcohol consumption by those recreating on the lakes. Inebriation, miscalculations, and mistakes can cause catastrophic results.

Pro Tip: Want to go for a swim in Oklahoma? Check out these 7 Best Lakes in Oklahoma (and Awesome Nearby Campsites)

Octopus in aquarium
While swimming in Oklahoma’s lakes, keep an out for the Octopus of Oklahoma.

Are Oklahoma Lakes Safe to Swim? 

Yes, it’s safe to go back in the water in Oklahoma. All of the lakes mentioned allow swimming and other water activities. Don’t miss out on exploring a quiet shoreline on a paddleboard or reeling in a record-winning large-mouthed bass.

Visit one of Oklahoma’s water holes to cool off in the summer heat, or just relax in a pontoon boat. We can almost guarantee you’ll have a safe and creature-free day of fun. But if you happen to see the tentacles of an 8-foot horse-sized creature reaching for you, start swimming fast.

Do You Believe in the Octopus of Oklahoma?

A trip to one of Oklahoma’s lakes seems the only way to determine your belief in the state’s cryptid octopus. Plan an excursion to Lakes Tenkiller, Thunderbird, Oolagah, or Norman and dip your toes in the water of summer adventure. 

If a large red horse with tentacles makes an appearance, you have your answer. But even if you decide that folklore is stronger than fact, you will have engaged in one of the Sooner State’s greatest pleasures. Beat the heat at one of 200 man-made for some fun.

Have you seen the Octopus of Oklahoma? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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