Lake City businessman put a little pep in the tourism biz

Lake Pepin.  Photo: Bob Collins/Minnesota Public Radio News.

Spoiler alert! There’s no evidence of a monster in the Lake of Tears.

The legend of Pepie, a monster said to lurk in the depths of Lake Pepin, is either a tale handed down from generation to generation, or the work of a businessman who wanted more people to visit the area south of Red Wing. Or a little of both.

Larry Neilson noticed something a few years ago when watching a documentary on the Loch Ness Monster. “They’re just a heckuva lot better at promoting theirs,” Neilson tells the La Crosse Tribune.

He claims to have seen the monster twice.

The first time, he was out on the lake in a speed boat with his wife. They were the only craft on the water and the lake was “smooth as glass,” when suddenly he saw an enormous wake churning in the middle of the lake, about two feet high and 200 feet long, Neilson recalled.

“I have no idea what it was, but whatever it was, it was very, very large,” he said.

The second time he was driving along the lake and noticed what looked like a log, 15-20 feet long, floating in the lake. He thought nothing of it, until he realized that the log was floating upstream against the river’s current. He pulled to the side of the road and grabbed his camera, but by that time whatever he saw had disappeared.

“Those two things are still unexplained, but it’s an intriguing mystery,” he said. “That’s part of the fun.

He offered a $50,000 reward for anyone who could find evidence but — get this — no one has yet claimed the cash.

Not that they’re not still trying, he says. Someone brought in a sonar image of something that was under the person’s boat this week, he says.

“There really isn’t anything outrageously large or scary out there,” said Ron Benjamin, who isn’t any fun at all, apparently. He’s the Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor for the Upper Mississippi River. “There’s nothing that would eat you.”