Serpent, mermaid or submarine in Grand River?

Strange creatures lurking in area bayous and waterways have made headlines in the Grand Haven Tribune since the latter half of the 1800s. In the 1890s, Tribune Publisher Horace Nichols wrote that having a sea serpent somewhere near a hotel or resort was actually good for business, as it drew in tourists.

The most famous of unidentified serpents or water creatures was the monster of Stearns Bayou, which made a few appearances out front of the old Gun Club near the bridge in August 1909. Several credible witnesses saw the large, glowing, turtle-like creature with a long neck and hippopotamus-like head. The Tribune published four articles concerning it.

What it was — if it ever was — remains a mystery. It never reappeared.

Most sightings of water creatures remain unidentified mysteries. However, one appearance 114 years ago caused quite a stir — until the mystery was solved, of course.

On July 12, 1899, just before noon, Pete Donnally looked out the window of the Grand Haven Tannery and was astonished to see what he described to the Grand Haven Tribune as “a large sea serpent,” swimming rapidly down the main channel of the Grand River, in the distance.

A number of other employees of the tannery gathered at the windows, witnessing the creature as well.

Donnally described the creature’s glimmering eyes, resembling “two big balls of fire,” while others could see great spurts of water shoot from its nostrils. The creature created a visible wake up on the high banks of Lievense Island, in the river.

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