The river ran high for a couple of weeks, then dropped back about 12 feet several days ago, again exposing the lower bank where we ordinarily keep a couple of chairs in order to enjoy the shade from a big willow while looking out over the water.
Now there’s an extra 3 or 4 feet of sand and mud – the first time that the Brazos has thought to build up this bank. I waited almost a week for the mud to dry sufficiently, then donned my rubber boots and inspected the remodeled bank. It’s nice! The new sandbar accommodated seedling cottonwoods and willows, but blanketed over and blotted out a wide swath of bloodweed, poison oak and thistle, creating a pleasant if currently muddy path providing a high vantage over this portion of the river.
I was strolling around in the sand enjoying the scenery when I came upon what looked like two giant, nicely sharpened pencils sticking out of the mud. They were upon closer inspection trees, maybe 3 inches in diameter, obviously cut or chopped down, and pretty obviously the handiwork of beavers. I’ve seen lots of their handiwork before, mostly among the Canadian lakes in Ontario up above Toronto, but I’d had no idea they ranged all the way down here. A look through the mud confirmed their tracks, but I was surprised to find that the hind feet of these toothy beasts were longer than my hand.
Our variety of beaver is supposed to be the largest rodent in North America, and third-largest in the world behind the ever-popular capybara and the European beaver. However, reports out of California make me wonder how long it’ll be before the capy naturalizes itself in the U.S.
I have an idea where our local beavers might have set up shop, but I’ll save verification for some future outing. I don’t have any idea at all how they are putting their damming instinct to work on a body of moving water this size.