Giant Salamanders of California’s Trinity Alps

The giant salamanders of California’s Trinity Alps are considered a cryptid, but you might be familiar with one of the three species of giant Asian salamanders. They can be found in the mountainous wetlands of China and Japan. They grow to a size between five to six feet long and can weigh up to sixty pounds. In 2007, scientist documented the longest Chinese giant salamander, kept at a farm in Zhangjiajie, to be 180 cm (5.9 ft) in length and weighed 59 kg (130 lb). The other two species of giant Asian salamanders are the Japanese giant salamander (check out this cool video of the five-foot creature) and the South China giant salamander, speculated to no longer exist in the wild.

Giant Chinese Salamander, Cryptid World, Giant Asian Salamander
Giant Chinese Salamander. Taken by Tristan Tan and used with permission under Shutterstock standard licensing.
Giant Japanese Salamander, Cryptid World, Giant Asian Salamander
Giant Japanese Salamander in the rear in the Kyoto aquarium.Source Author V31S70. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

For an amphibian we generally expect to be on a smaller scale of five to seven inches, the giant Asian salamanders are enough to blow your mind. You can read more about this fascinating creature here. But what if the giant Asian salamander wasn’t the largest amphibian in the world?

Monster Amphibian—The Beginning of a Legend

Dating back to the 1920s, biologists, zoologists and well-renowned cryptid hunters have sought out the existence of said monstrous salamanders. The enigma started with a deer hunter who was trekking in the Trinity Alps, which is a mountain range located in the Northern parts of California. The hunter stumbled upon a mess of salamanders ranging from five to nine feet long. The man reported he saw five of them at the bottom of a lake near the New River.

Diamond Lake in the Trinity Alps, Giant Salamander, Cryptid World
Diamond Lake in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. Photo take by Volodymyr Osypov. Used with permission under Shutterstock standard licensing.

After going out in search of the over-sized animals, the biologists came to the conclusion that what the man may have seen was the Pacific giant salamander. A twelve inch, light brown, croaking salamander. Not exactly the monstrous creature the hunter had described.

Which segues us to the next inquisitive character—a zoologist who claimed he thoroughly examined a five-foot salamander specimen. Herpetologist—a person who studies reptilians and amphibians—George S. Myers claimed a commercial fisherman contacted him to examine a creature that had gotten caught in his net. Myers recorded the salamander as dark brown with dull yellow spots. He noted that these characteristics were much different from the giant salamanders found in Asia and the netted specimen, up to this point, was an unknown animal.

Salamander Snuffed by Skeptics

Now in the mid-1950s, a man named Vern Harden, a reputable animal handler, reported seeing a dozen giant salamanders in a lake called Hubbard. Before the weather rushed him out, he managed to measure the creature. He recorded the salamander at 8 feet in length. However, people were skeptical with only word of mouth and no hard evidence.

The California cryptid craze even perked the ears of famous Yeti hunter, Tom Slick. In 1960, he and his Bigfoot-hunter followers took their turn searching for the mysterious giant salamanders with no success.

Years passed, and the motivation of zoologists snuffed the giant salamander of California to mere rumors.

Legend Back To Life

In 1997, a writer by the name of Kyle Mizokami brought the legend back to life one last time. He conducted the Kyle Mizokami Trinity Alps Giant Salamanders Expedition, the last recorded attempt at finding the mega salamander.

But, to no avail.

That doesn’t mean these giant creatures don’t exist in a small number, possibly keeping to dark caves and deep waters high in the mountains. We can hope the legend of the great giant salamander of California Trinity’s Alps is true because the giant critters are fascinating. And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather cross paths with a giant salamander than a colossal snake or … Sasquatch.

–written by Mel Cabre

giant salamander of the Trinity Alps, California, Cryptid, Mel Cabre, Creature Design

Mel Cabre’s depiction of the giant salamander of California’s Trinity Alps. If you’d like to see more of her designs, check out her Cryptid and Creature designs on Cryptid World. You can also see a multitude of designs on her Instagram page at Mel.Cabre. For exclusive designs (and to keep up with Cryptid World’s latest projects) consider signing up for our newsletter. We never spam as we are always conscious about NOT clogging your inbox.

Thank you for reading. We hope you have a great day!

–T. S. Mart and Mel Cabre