March 1, 2011

Nevada's Online State News Journal




Nevada History:


[The Alligator in Pyramid Lake, Hutchings' Illustrated California Magazine, November 1860]


            THE ALLIGATOR IN PYRAMID LAKE.A marvelous, though by no means impossible, story, has created much discussion lately in regard to a nondescript in Pyramid Lake. This inland sea is salt only in the northern portion, while the southern part, where the Truckee river enters it, is fresh. The water is deep, and large fish are found in it. Though certainly not a usual thing to find alligators so far north as this region, yet it is well known that they are common in the southern rivers on-the western as well as on the eastern shores of the continent; and it is therefore not improbable that the story of the Saurian in the Great Basin is entitled to credit. It is at any rate worthy of being placed on record. We are perfectly well convinced that there are a number of


discoveries in natural history yet to be made in our neighborhood. There is, for instance, a nondescript beast in the southern part of Oregon ; why should there not be a nondescript in Pyramid Lake ? The story is thus told by William H. Jardin, in the Sierra Citizen:

            Last July, three of us crossed the Truckee river a short distance above the American camp, and proceeded along the northern shore of the lake in search of wild fowl, great numbers of which abound in and about the tules. We had proceeded perhaps three-quarters of a mile, when Mr. Enslow shot a duck which fell some rods from the shore, and continued fluttering a considerable time, when we were amazed to see an extraordinary object driving swiftly towards our game, which suddenly disappeared, amid great commotion of the water. Enslow exclaimed that it was an alligator ; but at my direction we sat quietly in the reeds, in hopes that the creature, whatever it might be, would reappear. Within five minutes the water again showed signs of some large animal in motion, and directly the creature's head appeared slowly moving towards the shore. The monster slowly crawled on land, its tail dragging through the mud and its legs apparently sustaining its immense body with great difficulty, each leg alternating, like the steps of a sluggish quadruped. Having gained the shore, the creature stopped, within thirty feet of our hiding place, cautiously peering about, I suppose, to observe any lurking danger. Just then, while endeavoring to get a better view of the animal, a brittle stick broke under me with a sharp crack, when he turned about with great haste and awkwardness and made for the lake, in which he speedily disappeared, but not before receiving two charges of duck-shot, which, I hardly think, did him serious harm.

            Of course, there could be no doubt of the animal being an alligator; two of us, Enslow and myself, having been familiar with the sight of the creature in the south-western waters. I estimate the dimensions of this one between seven and eight feet long, the head being perhaps twenty inches. On discovering us, the monster raised on his legs, uttering a blowing sound and displaying formidable rows of teeth, but it showed no signs of fight. His color was darker than those of the Mississippi, and less rough, though in other respects I remarked no difference.