First Reported: 1736
Location: Altamaha River, Georgia
The Altamaha-ha river monster’s, or Altie’s, story begins in the early 1700s before the arrival of English settlers. The Tama Indian tribe lived near and often visited the Altamaha river, one of the largest in Georgia. Rumors started to criculated. Did a giant, snake-like creature live in the water? Both the Tama and Creek Indians claim to have seen the creature.
When a group of new settlers arrived from Scotland in 1736, they named the land New Inverness, eventually renaming it Darien. Interestingly enough, Inverness, Scotland is a town known for frequent Loch Ness Monster sightings. And probably how Altie got the nickname Georgia’s Loch Ness Monster.
Are these Scottish settlers simply better at noticing monsters in the water? Or, did their imaginations run wild in both Loch Ness and the Altamaha river? Most likely, a combination of both. Altie and Nessie are described in many of the same ways. The creatures are likely more similar than they are different, and the people from Inverness likely accidentally fabricated some of their characteristics.
What Does Altie Look Like?
There are a few key characteristics that most agree Altamaha-ha possesses: a sturgeon-like body with a bony ridge on its back, two front flippers, no back limbs, a whitish-yellow underbelly, and a horizontal tail, which allows it to swim like a dolphin or shark.
Some suggest this cryptid has a snout similar to that of a crocodile with long, razor-sharp teeth and protruding eyes. But it’s rare to see such a mysterious creature’s face.
As far as color and size are concerned, it could be grey, green, or blue and any size. The water makes it difficult to tell, and reports have suggested all three colors and varying body lengths. Up to 30 feet long seems to be the maximum estimate and as short as 5 to 10 feet has been suggested by those that think there are plenty more than one Altie-looking creatures in the river.
Where Does Altamaha-ha Live?
Altie gets its formal name from its permanent residence – the Altamaha river.
This river runs 137 miles through Georgia state, and is formed by the Ocmulegee, Oconee, and Ohoopee rivers. It drains into the Altamaha Sound, or bay, where it meets up with the Darien, Butler, and Champney rivers. This entire collection of waterways connect to the Atlantic Ocean.
There is plenty of room to swim, as the Altamaha features one of the largest river basins in the United States at 14,000 square miles.
The Altamaha-ha is said to travel throughout these rivers, most frequently at the mouth of the Altamaha river. It is most often sighted near Darien and Butler Island in McIntosh County.
Can the Altamaha-ha get out of the water, though? Rumors suggest it can. Reports of this cryptid basking on the shore do occur. Don’t worry. It isn’t going to come waddling up the road any time soon.
Theories and Possibilities
It has been suggested that the Altamaha-ha is simply a Sturgeon, one of the larger fish found in rivers. With a bony ridge on the top of its back and five lateral rows of scutes rather than scales, it fits the crocodile-like description associated with Altie.
Sturgeon can grow quite large with some reports saying more than 18 feet long. At that length, the fish would weigh more a ton. Since they live over 100 years and develop slowly, this could explain why sightings differ with regard to size.
These massive fish tend to live deep down in the water. As benthic feeds, they eat shells, crustaceans, and small fish off the bottom of the river. However, they’re also known for flying out of the water and making a splash that can be heard up to half a mile away. Scientists are unsure why Sturgeon do this. Some believe it is a form of group communication. Others believe it has to do with escaping predators. Whatever the reason, it brings Sturgeon to the surface for people to see.
As far as color is concerned, Sturgeon are typically spot-on with the Altamaha-ha. Their colosrs range from grey to brown, including a greenish color in some bodies of water. Although not yellowish, their underbelly is white.
Unfortunately, this theory fails when considering the creature’s teeth. Altie is said to have razor sharp teeth, but Sturgeon don’t have any. While teeth could have been imagined over time and passed down through stories, a complete lack of teeth is definitely a concern.
The frilled shark is another possibility. This other-worldly looking creature has to be seen to be believed. There isn’t a lot physically about this animal that lends toward it being the misidentification of the Altamaha-ha, but has been suggested as a theory.
Featuring an elongated, eel-like body, a flattened head with a rounded snout, large eyes that lack nictitating membranes, a long jaw, and a plethora of razor sharp teeth, the frilled shark only has a few similar characteristics to Altie.
In 2018, Jeff Warren took a photograph of a creature fitting the description of the Altamaha-ha, leaving many to suggest that he had found the cryptid dead. Chantal Audran of the Tybee Island Marine Science Center came to a different conclusion, though.
“It looks like a deep sea shark, like a Frilled shark,” she said. “Although I don’t see gill slits.”
Others have suggested this particular image could be a decomposed basking shark.
The female frilled shark is only expected to grow up to six-and-a-half feet, though. Males are even smaller. This is well short of the Altie reports of 20 to 30 feet.
To further debunk this theory, these sharks aren’t known to live in freshwater. They live throughout the ocean, being recorded in various parts of the world, including off the coast of Georgia. It was only in recent years that humans became aware of the bull sharks’ ability to live in freshwater, though. Could this be another case where an animal known for living in the depths of the ocean found a new home in the Altamaha River? Probably not.
There have been frequent sightings of the Altamaha-ha since the early 1700s.
The first sightings of Alite occurred in the early 1700s. The Tama Indian tribe often visited the Altamaha River and believed there was a giant, snake-like creature making this waterway its home.
The Creek Indians of Georgia also claimed to see the same creature.
The first reported sightings of this cryptid didn’t come until 1736, though. Settlers from Inverness, Scotland came to the area, founding what is now known as Darien, Georgia. These settlers claimed to consistently see Altie swimming through the river. It is believed that they’re influenced by the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.
In 1826, there was a sloop that sailed the area, known as the “Sea Serpent.” Some believe that this name was a reference to the Altamaha-ha.
In 1830, Captain Delano of the schooner “Eagles” saw the cryptid off St. Simons Island at the mouth of the Altamaha River. He claimed Altie to be roughly 70 feet long. Its head resembled an alligator and had the circumference of a large barrel. He also suggested the creature swam with its head roughly eight feet out of the water.
This story was told by five men aboard the schooner and a few planters on St. Simons Island. Some believe this sighting to be a whale, but Captain Delano argued he had often seen whales but never anything like this creature.
Stories continued to circulate throughout the 1900s. Timbermen traveling down the Altamaha River in the 1920s claimed to have seen a snake-like monster in the river. In 1935, a group of hunters claimed they saw a “giant snake” moving through the river, as well. In the 1940s, boy scouts in the 1940s saw the cryptid. And a pair of Reidsville State Prison officials reported a sighting in the 1950s.
A pair of brothers fishing in the Altamaha River claimed to see the creature in the 1960s. At first, they believed it was a Sturgeon, but quickly changed their guess after getting closer to the cryptid. The reported description is nearly identical to the Altamaha-ha’s general description, though they claimed it was only 10 to 12 feet long. Aside from that, the head looked very alligator-like and it had a horizontal tail, a ridge on the top of its back, and sharp teeth.
Harvey Blackman stated that he saw this cryptid in the 1970s. He claimed it was a snake-like creature that was 15 to 20 feet long. He saw the creature at a point called “Two Way” on the Altamaha River.
Multiple sightings occurred in the 1980s. First, a pair of men saw the cryptid stuck on the bank near Cathead Creek. They reported the creature was stuck half in the water and half on land. It was about 20 feet long with a dark color and rough skin. Shortly after they saw it, the creature freed itself, returned to the water, and swam away. In 1981, Larry Gwin and Steven Wilson saw the Altamaha-ha in Smith Lake. They said it was 15 to 20 feet long, had two humps that protruded the water, and left behind a wake similar to a speedboat. Later in that decade, a fisherman referred to Altie as “the world’s biggest eel.”
A man reported seeing a creature over 20 feet long that created a 6-foot break in the water in 2002. This encounter took place near Brunswick.
In 2010, an ametuer photographer took a video of a strange creature swimming in the channel off Fort King George Historic Site in Darien.
Sightings continue to this day.
Altie in Pop Culture
The Altamaha-ha has been on local Georgia news after an image of the supposed creature surfaced.
The Visitor Information Center in Darien, Ga. features the Altamaha-ha throughout their building, including a sign and large sculpture.