Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Beaver Pond

One more interesting walk from December 2015, four years ago.  It was into a beaver pond where a very active colony of beaver had flooded the trail with one of their dams.  After years of inactivity the beaver had returned, reinforced the old big dam and built no fewer than 6 more small dams downstream, one of which had floated the short stretch of boardwalk that carried the Bruce Trail over the tiny creek.  As the volunteer Land Steward Director it was my job to go and investigate and decide what should be done.
This interesting air photo at the time shows the old, now rejuvenated beaver pond on the left and the six smaller dams the returning beaver had built downstream to the right.  You can see the trail through the meadow here, and you may be able to pick out the boardwalk/bridge over the 4th pond downstream.

I walked in from the road and the first sight was not encouraging.  The trail was covered in water back 100 feet from the bridge.

But after I found my way out to the bridge (luckily I had been smart enough to wear my tall rubber boots), the trail ahead was even less encouraging.  What had been a simple continuing plank boardwalk was now floating!  There was no way anyone was walking this boardwalk without getting wet.

Looking downstream you can see the tiny thin dam that was the culprit; water on the far side is about a foot lower - it doesn't take much.

I explored along the trail beside the pond in its November/December colours.  Exactly four years ago today, but no snow yet that year.

Lots of interesting things to see, from reflections to muskrat dwellings, but the marsh was quiet at this time of year.

I turned back to the main dam, over 100 feet long, and managed to pick my way across to finish my inspection.

Discussions over the winter led to a plan and I visited the next summer when a fix was underway.

Through the generosity of the local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry we had the support of three summer students for three days.  This was one of the projects we put them to work on.  I freely admit that at this stage I didn't do any heavy physical work; I left that for younger volunteers.  The work included carrying in all the heavy timbers from the road!

First they propped up and stabilized the old bridge with new supports.

Then they dug out new foundations for the boardwalk down through the matted marsh vegetation into the clay.  I also have to admit that at least one of the two volunteers here is considerably older than me - my ability to do the heavy work of trail maintenance left me early!

After a few hours work they were well on their way with the first section of boardwalk sitting in place.  No beaver were harmed in the making of this boardwalk!

Google Maps has recently refreshed its database here in the valley with more up-to-date air photos, so I went back to check out the difference.  You can clearly see the re-routed trail and the rebuilt boardwalk, which has stayed dry I should add.  But the large pond has changed dramatically!  Take a careful look at its shape and size here compared to the fields below and to the older air photo above, and you'll see the difference.  A really interesting pattern of dynamic change over long periods of time =; I wish I could get back out and see it.


We're busy here at home preparing for our daughter and her family to visit this week, all the way from B.C.  We haven't seen them in well over two years, so we're really looking forward to it, though their nearly vegan diet has Mrs. F.G. challenged.  It's still white out, but rising well above freezing today and tomorrow with rain tonight, so who knows if we'll have snow for them to play in.  It may be just like the weather out there at this time of year, rainy and cold!


  1. Fascinating to compare those pictures. You workers made a huge difference in the landscape, for the better. And the beavers don't seem to mind either. I hope you have a good time with your family visit :-)

  2. Amazing work. Both the engineering of beavers and mankind is impressive. We have something very similar here!

  3. it is wonderful to see people committed to work like this. humans and beavers working together, in a way, there sure is a big difference in those pictures!!

    enjoy your family, after 2 years i'm sure it will be great to see them!!

  4. Comparing a sequence of aerial photos is always interesting, it provides a wonderful illustration of the dynamic natural world -- nothing stays the same.

  5. They are beginning to re-introduce the beaver into parts of the UK so I suppose we'll have to get used to the disruption of some of our waterside walking routes.

  6. Wow! I remember seeing beaver dams in Colorado. They can get quite large!

  7. Always nice to see people working and volunteering their time for the benefit of others.