This is one in a series about touring Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island. My husband and I spent three weeks there in October, 2021. This Travelogue is a journal of our trip, done for my own sake and to show readers why you should visit Massachusetts.
My husband and I enjoyed a wonderful walk at the Massachusetts-Audubon preserve called Pleasant Valley, located at 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox, in the Berkshires. Mass Audubon includes 36,500 acres of preserved land throughout Massachusetts. They are the state’s largest nature-conservation nonprofit. In addition to protecting wildlife areas and offering access to the public, their Pleasant Valley brochure says that they are a leader in environmental education, “offering thousands of camp, school, and adult programs that get over 225,000 kids and adults outdoors every year.” (See massaudubon.org)
Our Goal – Beavers!
We went to Pleasant Valley specifically to find beavers. They are rare where I live, and I hoped we could see some among the streams and trees of the Berkshires.
Before starting our walk we stopped at a tiny office to talk with the ranger. She gave us a map and said if our shoes could take it, she recommend we walk the CLOSED end of the Pike’s Pond trail. The only reason it was closed she said, was because beavers were damming the stream and flooding the walking path. Clearly, this was our trail!
Right off the bat we saw evidence of beaver activity – a beaver lodge!
Beaver lodges are built above and below the water line. They have at least one underwater entrance to living quarters, which are located in a hollow near the top of the lodge. The floor of the lodge is lined with wood chips (to absorb moisture), and fresh air is admitted through a vent in the roof.
Continuing on our walk we discovered trees in the process of being cut down, obviously by beavers.
Then we saw trees that had been completely cut down. It is amazing how strong the beaver’s incisors are. Beavers usually cut down trees two to six inches in diameter, but they can gnaw down a tree as thick as 33 inches!
After felling a tree, beavers will strip off the branches. Then they will either eat the bark (depending on the type of tree), or use the logs to build lodges and dams. They will also store branches and felled trees for winter use by sticking the ends of logs into the muddy bottom of the pond. Sometimes they build a muddy-floor room and cache food inside their own lodge.
Why Do Beavers Build Dams?
Whenever a beaver hears running water within their territory, they build (or repair) a dam. Beavers build dams so they can create a pond. The pond allows them to build a home (a lodge) safe from predators. The pond also allows beavers to store food. Vegetation growing within and around the pond supply the beaver with more food.
A Keystone Species
Beavers are considered a keystone species because of their importance to the environment. The dams they build create wetlands that attract more animals and improve the natural environment. Many species rely on wetlands to survive. Wetlands also purify water, counteract drought, and provide a natural barrier against fire.
Though my husband and I didn’t get to see an actual beaver on our walk (they are nocturnal), we saw evidence of their activity. I felt honored and humbled by this industrious animal. They are amazing creatures.
There is a great documentary called Leave it to Beavers available on Amazon prime. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about this marvelous animal and the gifts beavers bring to the environment.
Before continuing with my blogs on New England, I am going to divert to a short series on Southern California. I just spent some time there, visiting Universal Studios and Seal Beach. Stay tuned for those blogs, as well as my thoughts on Disneyland, Flying, and The Catcher in the Rye.
As always, thanks for reading and please share my blogs.