Have you ever tried to walk on a floating boardwalk? On one of the Bruce Trail properties a few miles north of us, the Young Wetlands, a bunch of busy little beaver have returned. It's a fair sized wetland, but the trail has crossed the little stream on a short stretch of boardwalk which hasn't been an issue - til now.
The active beaver have restored or raised several dams along the tiny creek, leaving the boardwalk floating in nearly 2 feet of water!
This is the main original beaver dam, which has been there for many years. That's it, stretching across the centre of the picture here, on the far side of the open water.
And this is an air photo printed off the country's website, showing how the beaver in the past have built not only a large dam creating the big wetland on the left, but several small dams downstream, creating a cascade of perfect beaver habitat! You can make out the Bruce Trail in darker green on the ground, and you can probably pick out the actual boardwalk in the centre right. You can count at least 7 beaver dams. This is a 2010 air photo, so it doesn't necessarily reflect today's details, but they are similar!
This view takes in the upper wetland, on the far left of the air photo. Apparently it's a haven for migrating birds in the spring, so I'm going to have to check it out next year.
I had visited this property once earlier this fall, so I knew enough to wear my big insulated rubber boots, letting me get close to the soggy shoreline., but not quite tall enough to let me cross the floating boardwalk. For that I might need hip waders!
The grass here extending out to the water's edge, actually seems to be floating, or at least very soggy. Out on that grass it would have over-topped my boots easily, almost like a floating mat around a bog.
This is the main dam, creating the large pond. You can see how the beaver have repaired this side of it, packing lots of mud along the logs. There was just a tiny trickle of water flowing through this, near the centre.
I was able to walk out on it quite easily, and could have gone all the way across had I brought a walking stick for balance. I think we'll recommend putting a new boardwalk immediately to the right of this dam, where the water is unlikely to ever flood too high.
I did manage to make my way out to the existing boardwalk, through 6" of water on the trail (there is currently a detour around by the road for hikers), just to check it out.
Looking downstream you can just see the dam that is causing the problem (at the end of the open water), a dam that has raised the water level right where the trail crosses.
A closer look shows you the top of this smaller dam, from upstream. Judging by how close the open water is on the far side, I don't think the drop in water level is very much at this dam. According to the neighbour, the beaver now live downstream of this point, where they've built a big beaver lodge.
And yes, I did try to walk on the floating boardwalk. It was a little bouncy and treacherous, and partly underwater. But there was still a 15 foot gap where I did not dare go. Fixing this will be a big project next spring, but it also gives us a much better appreciation of this unique wetland.
Skimping on my walking this week, so a friend and I went on a long Bruce Trail hike, downhill from Eugenia Falls. Over three hours altogether - that will help my average for the week!