S’igeidí, landscape architect

Upper Áak’w Táak, inland from little lake (M-word Valley) is excellent habitat for beavers, with numerous ponds, several creeks, and plenty of willows and cottonwoods to eat. Beaver families live all over this area, including the river and the lake. Naturalists Bob Armstrong and Mary Willson have studied these animals and their habitat for many years. Here’s what Bob wrote about challenges in photography:

‘In the beginning I watched them through binoculars to get some sense of their habits. . . Then I would position myself close enough to obtain photos. . . they were initially upset at my presence and would swim back and forth in front of me slapping their tails. . . .Eventually, they completely ignored me and would eat, gather wood, groom, and play sometimes within a few feet of where I was sitting. Once they became used to my presence, slow movements and shutter noise did not seem to bother them.’

To a bottomland bushwacker it often seems the role of Castor is to moat-off as much of the country as possible. Humans presupposing non-aquatic trails tend to look unfavorably at beavers’ waterworks.

To Discovery naturalists, on the other hand, beaver are a lot like devil’s club; they slow our off-trail progress. We love that! Slowing, we notice stuff. Dry-land Discovery field trips move at about a third of a mile per hour. Around beaver mires, we slow to maybe half that.

In Lingít Aaní, where S’igeidí is crest to the Deisheetaan, beaver have mentored humans for generations. Science has been slower to recognize Castor’s genius, but is coming around. All over the continent, “restoration” teams are returning beaver to injured waters, rectifying decades and centuries of human negligence.  Landscape ecologists now celebrate beaver, the lords of low places.

Glacier Recreation Area offers a maze of crisscrossing trails, many dating to a heedless time when bikers and 4wheelers cavorted over raw moraines and outwash. Beaver are assisting with deceleration, attracting rare birds, and flooding the bottoms with fish and frogs.

For amazing windows into the lives of beaver, visit Bob Armstrong’s site NatureBob. Search on beaver in both the photos and videos tabs. Also download Bob & Mary Willson’s Beavers by the Mendenhall Glacier, for free from his site, or here on JuneauNature. Another great local source on beaver and all-things motion-cam is Doug Jones Nature Videos.

In May 2021, Bob and I met virtually with 3rd-grade Seaweek classes who’d been studying beaver. What a kick! If you ever become complacent about natural history “expertise,” try answering questions from naturalists closer to the ground, with way sharper eyes and ears. (I’m still stumped by how beavers have babies).

Oh yeah, that reminds me about the freshly reconnected (May, 2021) Steep Creek beavercam livestream. Here’s a temporary link. I’ll try to update with the “permanent” one when it switches over.

In this section

Bishop 1987 Big Dipper Lake

A water source for Craig In April, 1987, Dan Bishop, Leigh Smith and I flew into a lovely lake 9…

1987 | Bishop, Smith & Carstensen | 33 pages

Fish Creek walkthrough

Focus group tour On Thursday, August 26th, about 30 masked aficionados of dynamic Fish Creek delta assembled on invitation from…

2021 | Richard Carstensen, Bob Armstrong | RC-59 pages: BA vid-links

Birds, beavers & Bob

Hands-off Seaweek At Discovery we offer hands-on activities in nature. So it’s been tough on us as well as the…

Beavers by the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

Introduction to a keystone species in recently deglaciated upper Áak’w Táak, inland from little lake (Mendenhall Valley). Can’t picture beavers…

2009 | Bob Armstrong|Mary Wilson | 62 pages