Ok, I admit that title is a bit sensational but early last month a news report out of San Angelo caught my eye. The report, written by Michael Price and published in the San Angelo Standard-Times details an incident involving the "Lake Nasworthy Monster." This "monster" has been described as a large reptile roughly six feet long cruising the depths, and occasionally the shallows, of Lake Nasworthy.
Lake Nasworthy is a small municipal lake located in San Angelo. The lake is named for John R. Nasworthy who sold the land the lake is located on to the city. The lake was built back in 1930 by the Texas Utilities Company to provide water for the city of San Angelo. The lake is small encompassing only 1,380 acres and is a mere 29 feet deep at its deepest point. It hardly seems a likely location for a monster. Even so, reports of a large animal in the lake have persisted for at least a decade.
Mr. Price, who is the Executive Director of the San Angelo Nature Center, stated in his piece, "Before my hobby of herpetoculture brought me to the Nature Center this decade, I had heard rumors of an enormous (always at least 6 feet long) reptile that would patrol the depths of Lake Nasworthy." He added, "This tall tale has been brought to my attention at the Nature Center a few times but never as seriously or as dangerously as this past week."
It seems two San Angelo police officers visited the Nature Center, which sits on the eastern shore of Lake Nasworthy, to see if all of their alligators were present and accounted for. A concerned citizen had reported that he had shot at a large creature in the lake and was worried about the safety of the people of San Angelo.
Mr. Price pretty much dismisses the possibility of an alligator, be it an out of place wild one or an escaped pet, outright. Instead, he theorizes the person who reported the sighting actually had seen a large flathead, or yellow, catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) or a longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus). Both species can reach lengths of 4-5 feet and are present in Lake Nasworthy. Mr. Price also suggests the possibility the report is an outright hoax.
Who knows what, if anything, was actually seen in Lake Nasworthy on this particular occasion? The fact is, however, that reports of something big in the lake have persisted for a decade or so. This leads me to believe that something big does, or did, live in the lake. I'm not suggesting there is a "monster" in the lake by any means; however, I do think dismissing an alligator as a possibility might not be wise. It is true that San Angelo is outside recognized alligator habitat. So is Cross Plains, Texas but an alligator was killed there back in August of 2009. You can read that account here. The Cross Plains alligator had made a home in a stock tank on the property of one Dick Vestal. Vestal speculated that his reptilian squatter had been a pet that grew too large and dangerous for it's owner and had been released somewhere near his property. Whether the Cross Plains gator was wild or a released pet is irrelevant. The point is, wild or not, an alligator was making a home for itself in a stock tank in West Texas. Is a similar scenario impossible in San Angelo? I don't think so.
I'm not suggesting the citizens of San Angelo should be afraid to enter the waters of Lake Nasworthy. I do think simply dismissing the possibility of the "Lake Nasworthy Monster" being an out of place alligator could be a mistake. You just never know. Many stranger things have happened.
What swims in the waters of Lake Nasworthy? Probably nothing unusual or exotic; however, if you live in the area and frequent the lake it might not be a bad idea to keep a camera handy. After all, you just never know.