Yaquina Bay Sea Monster.

Nessie: the Yaquina Bay Monster

Field review by the editors.

Newport, Oregon

The statue of the Yaquina Bay Monster in Newport is an accurate model of a real sea horror, Kronosaurus queenslandicus, a pliosaur that swam the Early Cretaceous seas over what is now Australia. It had a 12-foot-long head studded with nine-inch-long teeth -- the largest and longest of any reptile, according to a plaque on the statue's pedestal.

Skeleton of Kronosaurus queenslandicus.
Skeleton of Kronosaurus queenslandicus.

Although the Kronosaurus supposedly became extinct millions of years ago, the Yaquina Bay News reported on June 13, 1935, that two creatures fitting the description of a Kronosaurus -- "a huge animal of enormous proportions" -- had been seen eight miles south of Newport, just off the coast, snacking on some of the local sea life.

That's why this 25-foot-long monster is here.

The Kronosaurus was originally built for a traveling indoor exhibit of the Earth's prehistoric inhabitants. It could move its flippers and eyes, open and close its toothy jaws, and roar. By the early 1990s it was at Newport's Aquarium Village -- part of an attraction named Zoo-seum. But when the owner defaulted on his lease and skipped town, he left the creature behind.

John Tharp, the Aquarium Village facilities manager, had heard about the Oregon coastal monster and decided that the Kronosaurus was a near-relation ("Its relatives were indeed found off the Oregon coast 80 million years ago," says the plaque). Tharp christened it "Nessie," disabled its mechanical parts, used it as a float in local parades, then mounted the Kronosaurus on a pedestal as an outdoor statue. Tharp also invented a fake story for the pedestal plaque about Nessie being caught off of a Newport jetty "during a terrible storm" on June 2, 1992.

Parade float Nessie, the Yaquina Bay Monster.
Uncle Sam rides the Yaquina Bay Monster in a Newport parade, circa 1992.

Unfortunately, Tharp's tall tale has led to confusing consequences: some people dismiss the monster as completely bogus -- not knowing about the 1935 sighting -- while others really believe that it was caught in Newport in 1992.

Peggy Zachary, who worked under John Tharp in the 1990s, told us that some visitors not only think that Nessie was caught in Newport, but that the lifelike statue is the creature's actual preserved carcass. Its popularity has spawned a menagerie of additional statues at Aquarium Village -- whales, a walrus, bears -- but none with the star power of Nessie.

The vintage Kronosaurus was never meant to be displayed outdoors, and in 2009 Tharp told the Oregon Coast Today that, "She only has a couple more years left, we think." But Nessie was tough, and had a lot of local support ("People really love her," said Tharp). She stood until 2015, was removed, underwent a two-year restoration, and was put back in her outdoor spot in 2017.

Peggy said that Aquarium Village plans to eventually give Nessie a new pedestal and a better coat of paint, so that she can continue to startle visitors for years to come. The creature's only natural enemies, Peggy said, are the kids who sometimes try to steal Nessie's teeth. Cowardly punks; they'd be monster chow if Nessie was alive.

Nessie: the Yaquina Bay Monster

Address:
3101 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport, OR
Directions:
In Aquarium Village, just south of the bridge off of US 101. Turn east onto 32nd St., then left onto Ferry Slip Rd. On the right.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

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Aquarium VillageAquarium Village, Newport, OR - < 1 mi.
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In the region:
Bazalgette the Spewing Whale, Yachats, OR - 21 mi.

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