Summer is here, and that means a new season of exploring our beloved National Parks! Things might be different this year though, as our new collection of poster art will have you sleeping with the camp lantern on! Read on to learn about eight monsters, ghosts, and guardian angels of the Parks.
Mount Rainier National Park: Bigfoot's Summer Home
Mt. Rainier National Park offers many fun activities and wilderness opportunities. The park is a dream for outdoorsy folks, from hiking trails to waterfalls, reflective lakes to rock climbing and bouldering opportunities. However, a certain elusive and mysterious resident of the park could make your trip to Mt. Rainier even more exciting (and a little spooky!)
Legend has it that Mt. Rainier National Park is one of Bigfoot's favorite places to stay. Standing somewhere between 6ft and 9ft tall and covered in black, dark brown, and reddish-brown fur, Bigfoot resembles an ape-like man. With a face like a primitive man, the creature seems undoubtedly animal-like, except for the fact that he walks upright in a strange, almost loping gait, similar to that of a human running or striding.
Of all the mythical creatures and legends of the National Parks, Bigfoot is undoubtedly the most famous. There have been thousands of sightings of him and some photos too. The famous Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967 appears to capture a female Bigfoot on videotape. Casts of Bigfoot footprints have also been rendered and cataloged, with the most pristine example of such a footprint coming from Mt. Rainier National Park. Bigfoot's footprints are about 7 inches wide by 14 inches long, significantly wider and somewhat longer than the average human footprint.
Big Bend National Park: The Bruja Ghost
Big Bend National Park is one of the most remote National Parks in the contiguous 48 states. It’s also one of the least-visited parks, and it’s an International Dark Sky Park, awarded the title for its incredible night sky. While the park offers peaceful solitude, miles of hiking trails, and impressive biodiversity, many visitors say the park is haunted by ghost witches, the mysterious residents of Bruja Canyon.
The canyon was given its name (“bruja” is Spanish for “witch”) because many visitors who’ve walked by Bruja Canyon (or who’ve been brave enough to venture IN the canyon) have reported hearing wails of terror bouncing off of the canyon walls and streaming out into the valley below. Some hikers have even reported seeing a spooky apparition in the canyon!
Big Bend National Park is a huge park, so it’s easy to enjoy the park without ever going near Bruja Canyon. But if you do venture near this haunted corner of the park, take extra care not to disturb the spirits within!
Death Valley National Park: The Giant Mummy
Death Valley National Park is already one of the most unique and dramatic landscapes in the world, so should it be all that surprising that the region may have once been home to giants? If the tales of archaeological explorers Dr. F. Bruce Russel and Dr. Daniel S. Bovee have any truth to them, then this region was once indeed inhabited by prehistoric Americans who stood 8ft-9ft tall!
The Death Valley Mummy story arose from two early-20th century archaeologists and miners who were exploring Death Valley in 1931. They fell through loose soil while sinking a mining shaft and landed, somewhat bruised, in an abandoned cave system! But as if the previously undiscovered caves were not already an exciting enough find, the caves contained the mummified remains of three giant men, looming ancients who stood 2-3 feet taller than the average man.
Drs. Russel and Bovee left the caves and returned with a team of explorers, diggers, and prospectors. However, the ever-shifting sands of Death Valley had already hidden the cave entrance and the explorers never again found the caves they had said contained the mummified giants.
Badlands National Park: Home of the Badlands Banshee
In the ancient sea bottom that is now Badlands National Park, one will find labyrinthine canyons and high cliffs made of sandstone and hard-packed clay. The visual setting is unlike anything else in North America; fantastic peaks of silt turned into rock, what’s left of what used to be a seabed some 75 million years ago. And in this truly otherworldly, beautiful, but sometimes bleak, savage, and oppressive landscape, one may be unlucky enough to stumble across the Banshee of the Badlands.
Some legends say she is the ghost of an Indigenous woman killed in this area. Others say she is the ghost of a white woman who settled in the region but died before her time. Either way, many visitors have come to the park and heard her shrieking cry near Watch Dog Butte. And some have seen the banshee ghost too, floating atop a hill one mile south of Watch Dog Butte.
While the bloodcurdling shriek of the banshee is enough to terrify even the bravest of souls, some visitors have insisted that the banshee means no harm. Travelers have said that they saw the banshee weeping on her hill, but nothing said or done by the visitors ever seemed to heal the banshee of her sadness.
Indiana Dunes National Park: Be on the Lookout for Sandsquatch!
There has been an ongoing debate if all of the thousands of Bigfoot sightings from across the country have been of the same creature, of several individual creatures within the same species, or if these sightings have been of different creatures from different species that all look similar. When Sandsquatch made his entrance into the lore and legends of Indiana Dunes National Park, more Bigfoot fans began to believe that Bigfoot was not alone, that there were several creatures who were similar to Bigfoot, scattered across the nation.
From the classic Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest to the Swamp Ape of Florida, Bigfoot’s cousin Yucca Man in Yosemite National Park and the fur-clad White Walkers of Maine, and now, the Sandsquatch of Indiana!
Sandsquatch is said to be almost identical to Bigfoot, except this creature has long, matted hair that perfectly matches the color of the sand, hence the creature’s name. Sandsquatch is said to live among the dunes of Indiana Dunes National Park, with some believing that he has excavated entire caverns inside the dunes.
Kenai Fjords National Park: The Ocean Home of the Tizheruk
Folks who take a cruise boat tour through the fjords and inlets of Kenai Fjords National Park should keep an eye out for the legendary Tizheruk, a mysterious creature said to resemble a cross between a seal and a sea serpent. The creature is thought to inhabit the subarctic coastal waters of King and Nunivak Islands in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska, but reports also suggest the beast likes to hunt in shallower waters, including the bays and inlets of Kenai Fjords National Park!
The Tizheruk is an ancient legend of the Beringian Iñupiat peoples, a ghost story and mystery passed down from generation to generation by tribal elders to their children and grandchildren. Other names for the Tizheruk include the Pal Rai Yuk and the Tisikpuk. In the 20th century, American explorers in Alaska, namely John White and Roy P. Mackal, heard stories of the Tizheruk from Iñupiat peoples, and so the legend of the creature spread into western stories and culture.
Not long after White and Mackal learned of the Tizheruk legend, American Coast Guard personnel reported seeing strange creatures in the ocean waters off the Alaskan coast. But to date, no westerner has been able to garner proof of the existence of a Tizheruk, and the Iñupiat peoples of the Beringian region say it has been generations since a Tizheruk was seen close-up.
North Cascades National Park: Where Sasquatch Goes When Other Haunts Get too Crowded
Hundreds if not thousands of wilderness explorers and Sasquatch enthusiasts have ventured into the forests and mountains of North Cascades National Park in search of the elusive giant. Many returned empty-handed, but not all. From blurry photos to recordings of odd shrieking roars in the night, from casts of footprints to reports of strange rustling noises in the dark, several visitors to the park said they've seen, heard, or simply felt the presence of the creature known as Sasquatch, or "wild man" in the Indigenous language of the Salish peoples.
Said to be anywhere from 6ft to 9ft tall, Sasquatch is an ape-like creature with somewhat humanoid features. Sasquatch stands upright and on two feet, is covered in dark brown or black fur, and has a face that looks much like a primitive man. The creature leaves behind footprints that measure approximately 14 inches long and 7 inches wide, significantly larger than the average human's. The creature is incredibly elusive. Even though there have been thousands of sightings reported across the U.S., very few witnesses have ever captured photographs or video recordings of the beast.
Sasquatch appears to be a peaceful creature. And though the beast does shy from humans, Sasquatch isn't afraid to let forth a bloodcurdling roar when confronted. And though sightings of the mysterious humanoid have occurred for centuries, there has never been a reported capture of a Sasquatch, leaving the question of the creature's existence up for speculation.
Grand Canyon National Park: The Vicious Rake!
The Grand Canyon region is a vast landscape that, while it is immensely beautiful to visit, is largely inhospitable to human habitation. While there are some trails in the canyon, many parts of the landscape are inaccessible. Is it possible an ancient creature lives in the caves and caverns that dot the sides of the canyon walls? In the tunnels that wind through the earth beneath the canyon?
Though no one has provided conclusive evidence of the beast, in September 2014, filmmaker and documentarian Bill Brock and his team traveled to Peach Springs, Arizona, to a cave called the Grand Canyon Caverns. Their mission? Follow up on whispers and rumors of a monster called the Rake that is said to live near the Grand Canyon. They did not find evidence of the creature, but their film is worth watching!
According to eyewitness reports from locals in Peach Springs, Arizona who say they’ve seen the Rake, this beast is nine feet tall with sharp claws, hairless, gray skin, eyes that glow in the dark, and a huge mouth full of razor teeth. Some say the Rake has the power to turn off electricity, and many report that the creature has a thirst for violence and scurries through the dark on all fours, howling at anyone it sees.
Zion National Park: Zion's Guardian Angel
As the story goes, a married couple and their two children were hiking in Zion National Park in 1972. Young Becky wandered too close to the trail’s edge and suddenly fell off a steep ledge. She dropped thirty feet before a tree branch caught hold of her overalls. Becky hung by the branch, suspended high in the air. Her parents and older brother could not reach her.
Becky’s brother began singing a hymn, beginning with the words, “Come to Zion, come to Zion; Zion’s walls shall sing with praise.” Shortly after he began singing, an angelic woman appeared next to Becky, lifted her from the tree branch, and then soared back up to Becky’s family, placing her safely in the loving arms of her parents and brother. When asked, the angelic figure told the family her name was Margaret, then she disappeared.
No one saw this event occur but the family; yet Becky, her brother, and their parents were convinced that an angel had saved Becky. And ever since the event took place, other visitors to Zion have reported sightings of the angel Margaret. They've spotted her keeping a watchful eye on all who come to explore Zion National Park.
A Summer of Spookies
If you need a spooky souvenir from this season's adventure into the National Parks, take your pick from our Legends of the National Parks collection. Each of these original illustrations is available as a poster print, canvas, metal sign, mini canvas, notecard, or postcard.
And keep an eye out for your favorite creature when you're out on the trail!
- Ren Brabenec
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer