Beaver Mudflats

Today we hiked over to check out where the beaver lake used to be until about a week ago. We found many fascinating things, such as: fallen trees! Mud! Holes!

… maybe you had to be there.

The sheer SIZE of some of these downed trees is really impressive. (Also shown: my foot for scale.)

Whole lotta trees, whole lotta mud.

There were also some obvious channels dug by the beavers in the bottom of the former lake. I can’t really think of a natural process that could have made these.

Here’s basically the same view as above, but from a week ago:

Meanwhile, the creek is just back to being a creek, now running between 4-foot banks of mud that were deposited on the lake bottom.

And so many gnawed trees. So many. Beavers … why are you like this.

With this one tree along the (former) lake shore, they also ate its roots and dug around it, making it look weirdly like a cutaway view of a tree.

And I found a chokecherry tree growing wild, with some fruit on it:

And I got a (slightly) better picture of this cottonwood tree that’s gnawed through to the point where walking around it is kind of … uneasy.

It was a nice walk, but I miss the lake and really hope the beavers are okay. We’ve been leaving the area around the beaver house alone and trying to be quiet when we’re out looking around, hoping not to spook them off. They might’ve left for greener, damper pastures, though.

Unsolicited beaver pics

Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

So, for background, we live out on the highway with a creek in our backyard. Adjacent to our property, there’s a section of the creek that’s been intermittently occupied by beavers ever since we’ve lived here. It was unoccupied for a while, but a couple of years ago a new set of beavers moved in and rebuilt the old dam. We didn’t see them for most of the summer, but their dam-building ways kicked into high gear this fall, and we’ve been enjoying going out and looking at them, checking on the progress of the dam and watching them swim around, dragging branches from place to place, and preparing for winter.

Beaver dam in the sunset light.
From up on the hill. This used to be a creek meandering through a small valley; now it’s nearly all underwater.

Their pond start out small, but has been growing in size, rearranging the creek’s course and reconstructing that entire section of creek. It’s been really fascinating to watch.

Dam from the hill on the other side. The actual (original) creek bed is all the way at the top of this image and basically off camera; the creek used to meander absently through the valley and now it’s pretty much all underwater.
Well, this isn’t alarming or anything.

They’ve done an astonishing job of clearing out the trees in what used to be a wooded patch of valley and is now basically a lake, including gnawing through 50-foot cottonwoods.

It’s fun though – I mean, they’re cute, they’re not bothering anyone, and we like going out in the evening to watch them.

I don’t have very many pictures of the actual beavers because they’re usually seen from a distance and mostly swimming, so it’s just beaver heads. We’ve been trying not to go too close so as not to bother them. They seem to be largely unaware of us; they’ve never seemed to mind us being there.

Tonight, however, I went out for my evening tour de beaver, and the lake was … GONE?!!

This was all underwater a day ago. That pile of leaves and sticks is the dam …
The creek is back to more or less its original course.
Before and after – a side spillway below the dam, a couple of days ago and today.

We worried at first that someone had actually done it – destroying beaver dams is a thing that happens, sometimes out of necessity (because they do tend to build their dams in places that can threaten human infrastructure like roads). But we’re pretty sure the dam simply collapsed under our recent rains, especially since the beavers are fine. We saw three of them out there, busy trying to rebuild.

The only picture of an actual beaver I managed to get tonight – a bit blurry though.

So hopefully they’ll be okay. It’s late in the season for it, but they still have the creek and plenty of food, and they also still have most of the previous dam. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve managed to rebuild a tidy little lake by the time things freeze up.