Leave it to Beavers

Two beavers are standing at Hoover Dam, and one says to the other, “I didn’t build it, but it’s based on my design.”

That old joke isn’t far from the truth. Before human settlement, beavers were responsible for transforming huge areas of North America, literally creating much of the wetland habitat.

Who, me?



For most of American history, beavers were either hunted for their fur, or exterminated as pests. But now, beavers are welcomed back into arid landscapes. After all, an animal that can build dams and create wetlands has certain advantages.

I recently finished an interpretive signage project in Spokane County, at Liberty Lake Regional Park. The land was once a ranch, but is now a park with a lake, forested trails, old growth trees and a waterfall.

When local park visitors noticed a stand of dying Ponderosa pines, they became concerned. Why were the trees dying? Can’t we do something?

As it turned out, the trees were dying for a very good reason. Beavers had returned to the landscape and were re-creating a wetland.

Eco-restoration, beaver-style.

Here are the signs I wrote, illustrated and designed for the project. The finished size is 2 x 3 feet.

DDahn1  DDahn2 DDahn2detail


11 thoughts on “Leave it to Beavers

  1. Pingback: Monarch Butterflies and Roundup | Denise Dahn, artist/writer

  2. A number of years ago I could visit dear friends in Buenos Aires, and decided that was a good “excuse” to expand my horizon by visiting not only the Iguassu Falls (on both sides), but also journey to the very Southern tip of Argentina and explore the wider surroundings of Calafate (Perrito Moreno, etc) and Ushuaia. On one of my hikes in a parc outside Ushuaia I heard a splashing in the middle of an airy wood: I then spent quite some time observing two beavers getting twigs and branches to their lodgings. It was quite an experience. Would have liked to stay longer, but it was late afternoon and I had to decide whether to continue observing them, or miss the bus and have to hike back to Ushuia which was QUITE a distance away. As I realized that if I lingered around any longer I would miss the bus to Calafate and most likely couldn’t hitch a ride I had to get going. That was the one and only time I could observe beavers in action for quite some time.
    However, years ago, when Walter was a baby, John & I had seen beavers upstream from the Starved Rock State Park lodge. That was in winter: quite cold so close to the river!

    In the Boundary Water Canoe area we encountered also beaver dams. That too was many years ago, when Walter was quite young and an “eager beaver” in this beautiful and largely “wild” terrain.

    Sorry! Once more, I chatted for quite some time. It just shows what your lovely and interesting postings elicit.

    At that time we didn’t encounter many canoeists. When Walter was a late teen he went up to the BWCA and found that the “traffic” had quite increased. In a way, no wonder for such a large, beautiful area.

    That is our beaver story: no pictures. But a number of memories.

    • How interesting, Barbara! I wonder if the beaver species is different in South America? I know there is a European Beaver—it is a little different than our American Beaver. I think ours is a little more handsome. There is also a Mountain Beaver, but that is actually a completely different animal, not even related to the dam-building kind. A few summers ago, I was swimming in a mountain lake in the Kettle Range area, and a beaver swam right by us. It was quite exciting!

  3. I just loved this, Denise. The array of beaver topics illustrated on your signs is so appropriate, and of course your execution is beautiful as always. What an interesting glimpse of their lives and ecology!

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