A Beaver Story...or Saga

Photo credit: Kassie Fenn

Directly across from the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on Rt. 16 is the trailhead for Lost Pond. Over the years thousands of people have crossed the Ellis River and then strolled along its banks, winding their way on this minute section of the Appalachian Trail to a peaceful body of water known as Lost Pond (this short hike, which is .5 miles one-way, is great for all ages and abilities). Relatively flat, the greatest obstacle to overcome on this section of trail is the persistent and unpredictable behavior of nature’s architect, the beaver.

Photo credit: Kassie Fenn

In the month of September there was a disruption in the continuity of the Lost Pond Trail; a relatively simple stream crossing was completely flooded by beaver activity. Many hikers and visitors expressed frustration over the blocked trail, with good reason. Beavers had dammed the stream so effectively that the ensuing pond flooded the trail and made it extremely difficult to find a way around the obstruction. Outdoor enthusiasts wondered why a beaver would participate in such destructive behavior, and it simply breaks down to a matter of survival.

Beaver

Photo credit: AMC file photo

Photo credit: Kassie Fenn












Beavers (Castor Canadensis) build dams in order to create a suitable habitat for themselves and their families. North America’s largest rodent (yes, beavers are in the same family as mice and rats) need an area of standing water at least 2 feet deep. The dam and their homes, or lodges, are two separate structures. By damming running water to create a pond for themselves, beavers can build their lodges and have access to food while benefiting from the protection of water. In winter, beavers can slip into the pond while remaining under the ice, swimming to caches of food they have stocked in the preceding autumn months. Since beavers are herbivores that feast upon the bark of trees and the young wood directly under the bark, their food storage methods consist of dragging trees and branches into their pond for later consumption.

Photo credit: Kassie Fenn

Photo credit: Kassie Fenn

As made apparent by the behavior of the Lost Pond beavers, simple survival for a beaver can greatly disrupt hiking routes. It took the AMC’s professional Trail Crew a few days to accommodate both hiker and beaver, leaving the dam and new pond in place while constructing a series of bog bridges to provide safe passage. A few weeks afterwards, it rained. The beaver pond began to swell with the increase in water, and the Lost Pond Trail is quickly moving towards becoming impassable, again.

Curious about the lives of beavers? Drop by the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center for a naturalist program on these fascinating mammals. To get directions to the Lost Pond Trail, where you can see evidence of ongoing beaver activity, feel free to ask members of the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center staff at the front desk, or call 603-466-2721. Updated trail conditions are also available.

Photo credit: Kassie Fenn

BEAVER DAM UPDATE: As of Sunday, October 26th, recent heavy rains have led to the erosion of soil near the beaver dam. The beaver pond has drained, completely exposing the cache of food for the winter. The Lost Pond Trail is no longer impassable in that area, although it will be interesting to see how long it takes the beaver(s) to repair the "damage".