White River Monster

The White River monster is one of Arkansas’s premier mysteries. Since 1915, along the White River near Newport (Jackson County), the monster has appeared several times and has become a local legend.

Sightings of “Whitey” began in 1915 but were sporadic until 1937. On July 1 of that year, Bramlett Bateman, owner of a plantation near the river, saw the monster. He reported it as having gray skin and being “as wide as a car and three cars long.”

As news spread, construction of a huge rope net to capture the monster began. The monster had been seen in an eddy, so a diver was brought in to search for it. However, Whitey was not captured, and construction of the net stopped because of the lack of money and materials.

In 1971, the sightings began again when someone reported seeing a gray creature with a horn sticking out from its forehead. Other witnesses described it as having a spiny back twenty feet long. Later, a trail of three-toed, fourteen-inch prints was found in the White River area. Crushed vegetation and broken trees were evidence that something large had passed by, and it was assumed that the tracks were Whitey’s.

In 1973, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Senate Resolution 23, sponsored by Sen. Bob Harvey, creating the White River Monster Refuge along the White River. The area is located between “the southern point on the river known as Old Grand Glaize and a northern point on White River known as Rosie.” It is illegal to harm the monster inside the refuge.

While there have been no recent sightings, theories about Whitey abound. It is hypothesized to be anything from a huge fish to an elephant seal, though none of the theories fully explain Whitey.

For additional information:
Craig, Robert D. “The White River Monster.” Stream of History 45 (July 2012): 3–19.

Harris, William. “The White River Monster of Jackson County, Arkansas: A Historical Summary of Oral and Popular Growth and Change in a Legend.” Mid-South Folklore 5 (Spring 1977): 3–23.

Mackal, Roy P. Searching for Hidden Animals. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980.

“Monster Sanctuary Designated.” Arkansas Gazette, February 16, 1973, p. 8A.

“The Misplaced Monster of the White River.” The UnMuseum. http://www.unmuseum.org/whiteriv.htm (accessed August 2, 2023).

White River Monster: Legends and Lore. http://www.whiterivermonster.com/ (accessed August 2, 2023).

Conor J. Hennelly
Roland, Arkansas


    I’ve been on that stretch of river once a year for five years and I’ve never seen it. But I keep looking every year.

    Joe ODell Pleasant Plains, AR

    I saw the TV show on this White River Monster. My grandfather John D. Clemons came to Newport, Arkansas, around 1900. He fished and shelled the White River all his life. He moved from Newport to Casscoe, and then to Preston’s Ferry before his death in 1959. He spent more time in that river, and all of our close relatives and friends and I have never heard about this monster. I have been in this river swimming and fishing, and I’ve caught some big fish, but nothing like the monster described. My dad was a diver in the river for years, with the old deep sea diver’s suit, and I know if he thought a monster was there he would have never gone into the water. So for now it seems like a good tale to keep kids out of the water, just like Jaws here around the ocean. If it is there, I hope they capture it for the world to see.

    Edward E. Smith

    In 1993, my brother-in-law and I were heading out for a night of catfishing on the White River at Batesville. Below the spillway, we launched and headed down the river. About half a mile down, my brother-in-law and I passed something swimming up river. It was about six feet from the boat. When we got past, my brother-in-law asked, “What was that?” I know what I saw, but I didn’t know what it was! I consider myself quite nature savvy, but the only thing I have ever seen that looked like it would be pictures of the Loch Ness Monster. This thing had about four feet of neck out of the water, with a head almost the size of a football and shaped like one. My brother-in-law said, “Go back to see what it was.” I started turning the boat around and just lost my nerve. We got to our fishing spot, fished all night, caught a few, but I don’t think I relaxed the whole night, knowing what was in the same river as us! It was several months later when I heard of the White River Monster. The river is usually fairly shallow, but this was the year the Mississippi River flooded. It was quite an experience, but once in a lifetime was enough! I got my bragging rights!

    Steve Stone

    (2018) There have been more recent sightings in my area on the White River near Beaver Dam. I know two people who have seen it. One when she was nine, and she is in her thirties now. The other was THIS SUMMER!

    Gayle Green