"Verdi” as the locals call her, has been sighted frolicking in the Verdigris and Elk Rivers for more than a century and a half. In Kansas, the Verdigris collects the Fall River at the town of Neodesha and the Elk River at the town of Independence. In Oklahoma it collects the Caney River in Rogers County.
The creature was first spied by the Osage Indians who once inhabited the area and the tale was passed down from generation to generation. According to this first account, the creature overturned a brave’s canoe before sinking back into the depths of the river. During the days of the Civil War, Verdi was accredited for overturning a loaded Confederate gunship.
The Verdigris River Monster is described as snake-like, about thirty feet long with a spiny backbone, and makes a loud bellowing noise. Most of the many reports came from fisherman and campers along the Verdigris River.
In 1924, a Coffeyville resident reported having seen the creature, further describing it as having a dingy gray, crusted hide.
In 1937, a farmer named Brian Whitehead who lived south of Independence proclaimed to have seen the animal several times, saying: "The animal rises to the surface in the late afternoons and floats or swims around 5 to 15 minutes with its head underwater.” Intending on capitalizing on the sensation, Whitehead soon set up a viewing area where he charged a 25¢ for a chance to see the monster, and also sold sandwiches and soft drinks. Though business was brisk for a short time, no one else ever saw the creature.
In 1966, three people fishing also saw Verdi, describing it as having a tail like a mermaid’s, a long body, arm-like flippers and a head shaped like a monkey’s.
In 1972, two men reported that they saw three-toed tracks along the muddy river banks, as well as in the trees near the river. This same year, the monster was purportedly photographed by a man by the name of Clyde Wallace of the Verdigris River Lumber Company. Several other people that same year also claimed to have seen the river monster. These multiple accounts were enough to convince the Kansas State Legislature, who created the refuge two years later.
Though the furor persisted, at least one biologists believed that the Verdigris River Monster was actually a lost elephant seal who had somehow migrated out of its normal ocean habitat up the Mississippi River and into the Verdigris River near Coffeyville.
In the last several years the "sea monster” hasn’t been spied but most of the locals believe that it is still there. Others think that the creature died when the river became too shallow.