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Even if you don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster or aliens, there is truth to the fact that they are out-of-this-world tourism draws. Both Roswell, New Mexico and Inverness, Scotland (near Loch Ness) have built cottage tourism industries around ambulatory aliens and a natatory Nessie, respectively.

The act of perpetuating myths to attract curiosity seekers is not reserved to those two locales. To wit, a stunning number of odd creatures seem to roam rural areas throughout the U.S. Many of these crypto-zoological varmints originate from Native American lore, while others derive from conspiracy theories. A few, however, do have some basis in science. Regardless of their origins….or their actualities….they draw crowds. Ready to see a Yeti? Read on.

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Bigfoot of Washington

Washington State’s Bigfoot can be traced back hundreds of years to Native American legend. Yet, according to witnesses, the Sasquatch still makes guest appearances in the woods today. Eyewitness sketches portray a humongous hairy ape-like biped who is around 8 feet tall and weighs between 600 and 900 pounds. So, is there a Sasquatch stalking the conifer-clad mountains surrounding Seattle? Perhaps. After all, the largest number of Bigfoot sightings take place in North Cascades National Park, about a 2.5-hour drive from the Emerald City. Evidence of Bigfoot activity comes from visitors who swear they’ve seen giant footprints and devoured animal carcasses. If you decide to chase down the primitive beast in these parts, don’t forget to check out park highlights like Diablo Lake and Mount Shuksan. And don’t forget the Sasquatch repellant. Find your Bigfoot basecamp hotel here. 

Taku-He of South Dakota

In South Dakota, Taku-He is a nattier version of Bigfoot. Still, while the behemoth sports a coat and top hat, he is not particularly well-mannered. Since the 1970s, locals around Corson County have reported that this creature has a habit of tearing off the genitals of local cattle (ouch). Taku-He hangs out around the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which encircles Corson County. The reservation’s Lake Oahe offers fishing, boating and other water recreation. If you prefer a touring option providing a quick getaway in case of a Taku-He sighting, opt for a drive along the Standing Rock National Native American Scenic Byway. Stops along the way provide insight into the heritage of the Lakota and Dakota nations. Find your Taku-He hunting hotel here.

The Fouke of Arkansas

Flickr CC: Romana Klee

The Bigfoot of Arkansas is called the Boggy Creek Monster, or Fouke Monster. Several movies have been made about this eight-foot-tall cryptid who hangs around the town of Fouke in the southwestern corner of the state. You can learn about the legendary movie star at The Fouke Monster Mart, which displays monster art and artifacts, all while selling the requisite tacky souvenirs. There’s not much else to do in Fouke, but nearby Texarkana, with its Four States Auto Museum and the Lindsey Railroad Museum, may appeal to transportation buffs. Find your Fouke Monster hotel here.

The Skunk Ape of Florida

Skunk Ape is Florida’s answer to Bigfoot. Skulking around the Florida Everglades, Skunk Ape looks similar to The Boggy Creek Monster, but he also sports a distinctive smell. Experts say the best place for a possible glimpse (and a whiff) is Ochopee, home of the Skunk Ape Research Center. Mind you, that’s a bit of a misnomer. There’s no research done on-site.  But visitors can see real-life swamp things here, like alligators, turtles and snakes. Ochopee sits at the entrance of Big Cypress National Preserve, where you can camp, fish, kayak and attempt to track down Skunk Ape. Find your Skunk Ape-hunting hotel here. 

The Twilight Dragon of Idaho

The Loch Ness Monster may be the most famous of the mythological marine beasts. But the United States has a few Nessies of its own. In Idaho, there’s Sharlie, aka the “Twilight Dragon of Payette Lake.” The dinosaur-like lake creature, oft-mistaken for a giant log, is said to dwell deep within Big Payette Lake. Since first being “spotted” 100 years ago, claims of re-surfacing continue to arise in the huge expanse of glacial waters slurping the shores of the resort town of McCall. If you want to search for Sharlie, take to the waters. Payette Lake is popular for boating, sailing, jet skiing and swimming. The north fork of the Payette River flowing through McCall is a whitewater playground for kayakers and canoers. Find your dragon-seeking digs here.

The Chessie water monster of Maryland

In Maryland,  the Chesapeake Bay’s answer to the Scottish water monster is called Chessie. She’s said to be a serpent-like creature with flippers, ranging in length from 25 to 40 feet. Some scientists say there might be a smidgen of truth in this tale—many descriptions match those of an oarfish, although shallow Chesapeake Bay waters would not be the creature’s usual haunt. The most frequent sightings of Chessie take place near Calvert Cliffs State Park. Visitors to the park, however, are more likely to find Miocene-era relics than mysterious water creatures. The park, notable for massive cliffs formed more than 10 million years ago, is a popular spot for fossil hunters. Find a sweet stay on the Bay right here.

The Loveland Frogman of Ohio

No one knows what will happen if you kiss the Loveland Frogman. Apparently, no one has gotten close enough to the Ohio critter, who is not particularly attractive. He’s said to be around four feet tall, with the face of a frog, green, leathery skin and webbed hands that wield a wand. As sightings are infrequent, your best best for getting amphibious near the suburb of Cincinnati is by soaking up the water rides at Kings Island or heading to Lake Isabella, where you might see some actual frogs, warts and all. Find an unbelieva-gill hotel here.

The Menehune of Hawaii

The Menehune of Hawaii are very industrious little fellers. Tipping the ruler at 24 inches, the Menehune appear only at night, when they build roads, dams and temples. That said, these wee creatures do have their fun. They are said to enjoy singing, dancing, archery and cliff diving. The Menehune are most closely connected with the island of Kauai, where they “built” the Alekoko Fishpond, which is one of the finest examples of ancient Hawaiian aquaculture. You can explore the pond by kayak. Nearby Lihue has several other aquatic wonders, including Wailua Falls, Kalapaki Beach and the isolated driftwood-strewn shores of Niamulu Beach Park. Hunting Menehune is tiring. Find a Hawaii hotel here.

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