SACRAMENTO, CA (KXTV) - George McKamy was out for an early morning walk along the American River at Sutter's Landing when he was startled by a loud noise coming from the water.
"It scared the pants off of me," McKamy said in an email.
He was able to get his camera up in time to get a shot of the creature that made the noise, and believes he took a picture of a small whale's blowhole.
But other regular visitors to Sutter's Landing said what McKamy saw was more likely a large sea lion that's been hanging around the area in recent weeks feeding on fish.
Paddleboard instructor Rob Macias caught the sea lion on video Feb. 5, and said the mammal was about three-quarters the length of his 12-foot paddleboard.
Macias said he, too, was startled by the sound of the massive exhale.
"That's what attracted me at first. I was paddling and heard that sound," Macias said.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden Patrick Foy said it was unusual for sea lions to venture so far up the American River, but certainly not unheard of.
"Anywhere there's fish, the sea lions will follow," Foy said.