River Rodents

Was running along a low bit of trail this week, and noticed water creeping up the trail. I think we have a new beaver dam.  There used to be a beaver dam just south of Greenbrier, and for a couple of years, the trail leading south from the little bridge below Greenbrier was often knee deep in water.  (Not a problem when the water is clear, but I’m always a little wary of stepping into water when I can’t see what’s sitting on the bottom.  Yuck.)  A pipe was installed under the bridge, and whether due to the pipe or beaver death or relocation, the water is pretty low there, now.  As a matter of fact, this spring the water was so low south of Greenbrier, that the canoe launch was unusable. Slogging thru deep mud isn’t a great way to start a paddling trip! A couple of days of rain temporarily raised the level, but it didn’t last.

I knew that beavers are rodents, but never gave it too much thought.  So are they cute overgrown hamsters, or gross rats in the river?  I think I like the hamster idea better.  I found some interesting info about beavers at Mass Wildlife.  They were hunted to extinction in Massachusetts in 1750, and didn’t appear in the state again until 1928 when they were spotted in West Stockbridge. They are North America’s largest native rodents and can be 2 – 3 feet in length with an additional 12 – 18 inches of tail.  They can live for up to 20 years, and are herbivores.  In 1996, voters in Massachusetts passed a referendum restricting beaver trapping, and since then, the state beaver population has at least tripled.

Well, back to the creeping water.  On the west side of the French River, just south of the gas line, is a low section of trail.  The river here is usually low, and some summers it’s been possible to cross here walking on the rocks.  The first year of The Dam Trail race, the runners crossed the river here.  (That was before either of the Rocky Hill bridges was built).  This picture was taken this  spring, around the same time as the canoe launch picture above.  Back in June, Seth and I went almost into the river here to see the other side of a sign that we thought was facing the water.  Turned out it was an empty sign, on the edge of the river, with no words on either side.  Why?  Well, the sign is gone now, but the spot where it was sitting is currently a couple of feet from the edge of the river.

The water level has been creeping up the last couple of months, and some days now isn’t much lower than the trail. There seems to be a beaver dam now , and a lodge.  The water is high enough that you could probably paddle a kayak right around behind the lodge.  On this side of picture, the water is trickling through a small opening, and running around the dam.  The Mass Wildlife site says that the sound of trickling water makes the beavers rebuild or re-enforce the dam.  I’m curious to see how big this gets.  But I won’t be too happy if we lose this section of trail.  Unless a new trail was cut there, we would have to detour out to the railbed.  The railbed is better than pavement, but not as good as trails.  I guess this isn’t a bad place for a beaver dam, as nobody’s property is being damaged.  But I find myself wishing them to go away, and not mess with my trails.  Oh, well.  Let’s see what the next few months brings!

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