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Third Generation Nevadan

Don Costar family memories and stories – Walker Lake serpent

Walker Lake is on Hwy 95 between Schurz and Hawthorne Nevada. It is part of the Nevada State Parks Division. There is a Paiute Indian legend about a serpent in Walker Lake.

I've never seen the Walker Lake “serpent,” though I've been told there are some who have. Well, actually I don't think any one who was sober has ever seen it. But the Paiute and Shoshone legend has it that the “serpent” who lives at the bottom of the lake is a fearsome thing, of immense size and incredible speed. It also has the head of a dragon, of course, with awful teeth and fangs, like most lake dwelling monsters. Got the picture so far? OK, the serpent monster did not really exist in Walker Lake. Never did... But where it did exist was in the minds of the little children who belonged to the tribes that lived there long ago. It was planted in their little minds on purpose, and for the best of reasons – to keep any unsupervised children safe from drowning.

What the elders of the Shoshone and Paiute tribes knew for certain was that there is, and must have been also in the old days, strong currents in some areas of the lake that make it difficult for a swimmer, and certainly dangerous for a child swimmer. What better way to keep adventurous children away from deep water than to let them “overhear” horror stories of some hungry monster always cruising just under the surface, looking for a tasty young Indian snack.

The high school basketball and track teams, in Hawthorne, were called the Serpents and the name was derived from the Indian lore. Our mascot (and logo) was the Walker Lake Serpent, embroidered on our jerseys. We didn't have a football team before WWII because there just weren't enough students big enough to make up a team. The total high school student body was around 42, while I attended. My 1942 graduating class was 12. About 18 or 20 kids rode the school bus each day from Mina (33 miles each way) to help make up the student body of 42.

Photo Gallery of Walker Lake

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