Category Archives: Water

Forest Feature: Beavers

A beaver swims across a stream

The busy, busy beaver is our February Forest Feature.

Beavers, or Castor canadensis, are sometimes called the “engineers of the wild.” They are probably best known for the elaborate dams they construct across streams, flooding surrounding wetlands.

A beaver sits upright, clutching something in its paws.
A beaver, photographed July 4 2007 by
Flickr user @sherseydc (Steve Hersey), downloaded Feb. 4, 2019. This image is shared with the owner’s provision under the provisions of a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A beaver dam creates a pond that provides habitat for the beavers, and for many other aquatic creatures. Deer and other animals may forage for grass and shrubs that grow in small meadows beavers have created by harvesting wood to build with.

The dams are built from wood, mud, and rocks. Beavers cut down small trees by chewing through them. They may even dig canals to float those trees back to their pond!

A large beaver dam on the Fremont National Forest is photographed in this file photo from the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region archive.

The beaver is the largest rodent that is native to North America. A typical adult beaver is more than 3 feet in length, if you include their broad, paddle-like tail, and weighs more than 40 pounds!

You might be surprised to learn beavers don’t live inside beaver dams. A beaver’s home is called a “lodge” and is typically a large mound, also made from branches and mud, located upstream from a dam.

Lodges can have multiple entrances, which lead to an above-water den inside. They even have “skylights” – small holes near the top that lets in fresh air.

The Olympic National Forest’s Brown Creek Nature Loop circles a beaver pond, seen here in an April, 2017 USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region photo.

Beavers live in colonies of up to a dozen beavers, and a colony may have several lodges!

During the winter, beavers take a break from all their busy building. In places where it gets very cold, beavers will store food for winter at bottom of their pond, or swim out under the ice to harvest underwater plants.

After a few years, when beavers have eaten most of the food and felled the closest trees around their dam, the colony will begin looking for a new home. Once abandoned, the beaver’s dam quickly deteriorates and the pond recedes, revealing a new wetland or meadow covered with rich, newly-fertilized soil where plants will quickly grow.

Did you know?

  • A beaver’s front teeth are very strong, and are sharpened by their chewing.
  • Beavers have bad eyesight, but a strong sense of smell and very good hearing. They do most of their construction work at night.
A beaver chews on saplings at the Mendenhall Glacier Viewing Center in Alaska. USDA Forest Service photo.
  • A beaver has furry paws on their front legs that are good at grabbing and holding building materials, and webbed toes on their back feet that are excellent for swimming.
  • Beavers warn each other of danger by slapping their wide tails against the water.
  • A beaver’s tail also helps them balance when carrying building materials, and steer themselves while swimming.
  • A beaver can hold its breath while underwater for up to 15 minutes.
  • Beavers’ building benefits the environment in many ways, including protecting endangered salmon and their habitat. Young salmon and trout find protection from predators in the complex currents and mazes of logs and branches surrounding beaver lodges and dams. Debris piles leftover from former beaver dams and lodges also protects the streams and creeks running through them from erosion.

Education resources:

Video, info and fact sheets:


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email

In the News: Adriana Morales, Siuslaw NF district fisheries biologist

Adriana Morales, Hebo District fisheries biologist, Siuslaw National Forest, wears waders and poses with a depth measurement tool while collecting stream data

How does a girl from Bogota, Columbia, who grew up in a city set high in the Andes, fall in love with the ocean and end up working for the Forest Service in Hebo, Ore.?

The Skanner News recently profiled Adriana Morales, a district fisheries biologist for the Siuslaw National Forest, as part of a running series highlighting diversity in the Forest Service, and opportunities in the natural resources career fields.

Morales is passionate about working with partners to restore the Pacific Northwest’s salmon and steelhead habitat, which relies on the clean, cold streams supplied by forest shade and melting mountain snow.

She’s also dedicated to sharing her love of the natural world with others; she frequently conducts bilingual outreach events and opportunities that open outdoor experiences to youth from under-served communities.

From the story:

“We are sharing this planet … and we need to recognize and ensure that conservation, preservation and rational use of natural resources needs have a balance with the interest of the society, and with other animal and plant species, because this is our legacy for future generations,” Morales said.

Read more, at:

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Baker Lake “Road to Trail” opens for public comment

A narrow, woodland trail.

SEDRO WOOLEY, Wash. – September 19, 2018 – The USDA Forest Service, Mount Baker Ranger District is initiating public scoping on the Baker Lake “Road to Trail” project, a proposed project within the Upper Baker Lake Watershed.

The agency is evaluating alternative trail locations to maintain access to the Baker River trail and Baker Lake trail along the Baker River while ensuring natural river and floodplain processes are protected and that future trail infrastructure investments are less likely to be lost or damaged due to periodic flooding.

The river has damaged the Baker Lake Road a number of times in the past; currently there is a damaged section of road prior to the trailhead’s parking area. This effort will determine which trail relocation alternative provides the greatest certainty for long term recreation access, which also maintains or restores river and floodplain processes in addition to being economically feasible now and into the future.

In an effort to reduce paper use, the Forest will emphasize electronic correspondence throughout this project. Please include with your comment: 1) a valid e-mail or mailing address, and 2) your document format preference. The project website will be the primary avenue through which the Forest Service provides information about the project. That website is:, under the heading “Baker Lake Road to Trail Project.”

Electronic comments are preferred. Email comments to: with the subject line, “Baker Lake Road to Trail Project.” Include your comment in the text of the actual e-mail message, or attach a plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), PDF (.pdf), or Word (.doc or .docx) file containing your comment to the email.

Written comments can be mailed or delivered in person to the Mt. Baker District Ranger office:

Mt. Baker District Ranger Office
(attn: Erin Uloth, District Ranger)
810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284-1263

If you prefer paper copies of project documents, or for more information regarding the project, please contact Jeremy Gilman, Project Team Leader, at (360) 854-2633 or

Source information: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest staff report. The press release is available at

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary: Rafting rapids and tying flies on the North Umpqua River

Fly fishermen practice with a guide on the North Umpqua River

People seem to agree there is something special about the North Umpqua River.

The water is sometimes blue and sometimes green, and so clear you can see through to the smooth stones of the riverbed, below. The current, alternately placid and rapids, tumbles under bridges and over boulders as it winds through a modest canyon and across portions of the Umpqua National Forest.

Why it’s special it’s harder to pin down; or rather, the reasons are as varied as those who are drawn to its sun-dappled, tree-lined banks.

two kayakers paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. 

For fishing guide Dillon Renton, the special nature of the North Umpqua River is deeply rooted in the river’s century-old ties to fly-fishing.

A 33-mile stretch of the river was federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1988. The act, which passes the half-century mark later this year, identifies rivers to be managed and protected to preserve outstanding wild, scenic, or recreational values.

For the North Umpqua River, the list includes water quality, fisheries, recreational opportunities, cultural significance, and overall scenic value.

“It’s quite different from other rivers, in terms of ease of access. You can pull right off the highway and start fishing, in some places,” Janie Pardo, a Forest Service realty specialist on the North Umpqua Ranger District and manager of the river’s outfitter-guide program, said.

A fishing guide helps a woman practice casting from a sandbar along the North Umpqua River

Fishing guide Dillon Renton helps visitors Rob Lynn and Shelley Phillips practice their cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018.

Fly fishing is what the north Umpqua is most famous for – specifically, the wild Columbian steelhead.

The river attracted fly-fishing sportsmen beginning in the 1920s. Anglers pursued wild Columbian steelhead from its banks; including some famous names like Zane Gray and Jack Hemingway.

Catching the fish is notoriously difficult. Some anglers even call it “the graduate school of fly-fishing,” Jim Woodward, who co-owns the Steamboat Inn with wife Melinda, said.

Fishing is what drew the Woodwards to invest in the half-century old fishing lodge on the banks of the river, about two years ago. The couple met while working together at another resort, but dreamed of running a lodge of their own.

The owner of Steamboat Inn discusses fishing flies

Jim Woodward, owner of Steamboat Inn, discusses the history of fly fishing for wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River July 20, 2018. The inn, built in 1957 has operated on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) for more than 60 years, and is the successor to the North Umpqua Lodge, which operated from 1934-1952. Prior to that, the site was home to a fishing camp established by Maj. Jordan Mott in 1929, and also used by angler Zeke Allen.

“We walked in, and we were like, ‘this is it,’” Melinda Woodward said.

But like the fish that ply its waters, the river valley’s weather can also be fickle. Just months into the Woodward’s first season, a lightning storm set wildfires across surrounding portions of the north Umpqua National Forest.

a fishing fly with black and white skunk fur

A Green Butt Skunk fly lies on a table at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018. The fly pattern was specifically created for fishing wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River by Dan Callahan, a founder of the Steamboaters – a private flyfishing and conservation organization founded for the protection of the river and its fishing heritage.

Some fires burned right up to the river’s banks. Officials closed the highway, then the river, north of the lodge. And what visitors the lack of traffic and river didn’t kill, the smoke drove away.

“We called it our ‘trial by fire,’” Melinda Woodward said. “If we could get through that, we can make it through anything.”

A chef plates entres while a member of the waistaff assists in the kitchen

Justin Smith plates entrees in the kitchen at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018.

Justin Smith grew up in Glide, Ore. and is the first in four generations of his family not to work in logging.

In the 1980s, before the Endangered Species Act was passed, fishing was how his family filled their freezer during lumber mill strikes.

His first job was working in the kitchen of the Steamboat Inn, and cooking became his career. For several years, he worked Portland, specializing in farm-to-table cooking, before returning to the inn last year as its chef.

In late July, summer squashes and wild morels were featured alongside cocktails and desserts that were made with local berries.

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn, pictured here on July 20, 2018. The inn’s ties to a century of fly fishing and wild steelhead runs on the North Umpqua river are apparent in the historical photos and fishing equipment on display, the decor, and the inn’s extensive library of books on fly fishing, many by authors known to have fished on the river.

Smith was mid-transition, from the last of the winter vegetables to summer fare – a phone call from one of his farmers to let him know she had fresh tomatoes and peaches meant he’d be pivoting to new menu items as soon as his order arrives.

“I’m going to have a ton of beets left over, but that’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pickle them, and then we can serve them this winter.”

Smith spoke of “his vendors” much the same way Renton spoke of favorite fishing holes – with a note of local pride, tempered with the slightly guarded tone of a secret not readily shared.

“I want the flavors to remind people of where we are, and what this place is,” he said. “That’s where the morels come from, the berries. As much as we can, it’s all local.”

A fly fisherman on the banks of the river

Rob Lynn practices his cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018. Attempting to catch steelhead on the North Umpqua River is sometimes referred to as the “graduate school of fly fishing.”

One thing that isn’t on the menu is wild steelhead from the North Umpqua River. The fish is protected, and today all fishing for it is catch-and-release.

That doesn’t stop fly fishermen from coming from all over to test their skills against the famous fish. They don’t have the river to themselves, though. The anglers share the river with a growing community of boaters, primarily drawn to opportunities for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The fishing guides, suited in waders and wielding flies and rods, are out from sunup to around 10 a.m., when the rafting parties begin to gather at places like the Boulder Flat boat launch. Many anglers return in late afternoon, and continue to fish until dusk.

rafters paddle downriver through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.

But in the middle of the day, it’s boaters who rule the river, paddling kayaks or swooping over rapids in rafts along much of the Wild and Scenic recreation corridor.

Portions of the river are managed by the Forest Service, and others by the Bureau of Land Management.

rafters listen to safety instructions

A group of rafters listen to a Sun River Tours outfitter-guide give safety instructions at the Boulder Flat boat launch on the North Umpqua River, Umpqua National Forest in Oregon July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Land managers describe the river corridor by dividing it in five sections, each roughly five or six miles in length.

Each segment is dominated by unique scenery, from basalt columns in the first segment, Boulder Flat to Horseshoe Bend), to old growth forest and water falls on the fourth, Boulder Creek to Susan Creek, and smooth running river interspersed with rapids that ranging from a relatively gentler Class IIs and IIIs to challenging Class IVs and Vs.

From overhead, rafters paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

Visitors can raft or kayak on the river without a permit, or access the river through one of several companies with outfitter-guide permits (check out the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s new outfitter-guide finder).

“As outfitter-guides, we’re really ambassadors for the river,” Erik Weiseth, owner of Orange Torpedo Trips, said.

A kayaker paddles through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Not everyone has the confidence or tools to take up a new outdoors activity on their own. Outfitter-guides provide the gear, and the expertise, to try something new — and do it safely, he said.

The company also operates tours on the Rogue River, one of eight rivers designated 50 years ago, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act first passed.

A wildflower

A wildflower grows on the banks of the north Umpqua River, through the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) at Horshoe Bend campground July 20, 2018.

The inherent tension between maintaining the natural wonder visitors value when visiting outdoor spaces, while introducing more people to those special places, is one that he, like others who work along the river, is sensitive to.

“But these places won’t survive, if people don’t know them and appreciate them,” Weiseth said. “As outfitters and guides, we provide an accessible way for people to do that.”

Recreation on the

From left, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoy lunch at the Falls Creek Falls trailhead on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

At the Falls Creek Falls trailhead, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoyed a family picnic after a short hike to the falls.

“(Gil) first came here when he was a baby, and we come back every so often,” Clayes said. “It’s a nice hike, not too steep… it’s special to us. He has memories of his grandpa on this trail, with him.”

A mossy tree

Moss drapes from a tree on a river bank behind Steamboat Inn along the North Umpqua River on the Umpqua National Forest July 20, 2018.

Behind the Steamboat Inn, guests took in the sights and sounds of the river while dining on the restaurant’s patio as Melinda Woodward reflected on what drew her, and her husband, to the North Umpqua River.

What makes the river unique might not be something that can be shared, only experienced, Woodward said.

“There is something special about this river. I don’t know how to put it into words. One guest said ‘if there’s any magic left, it’s here,'” she said.

More information:

A river cuts through a steep canyon

The North Umpqua River’s rapids drop to class II as the river approaches Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.

Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at

In the News: Abnormally dry to drought conditions continue across Pacific Northwest

Creek at Forest Road 2204, Olympic National Forest May 31, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Douglas Parrish.

Capitol Press reports that moisture across Washington and Oregon ranges from extremely dry to drought conditions, with little relief expected in the next three months.

According to the article, the region’s most extreme drought conditions are centered on southwest Oregon, with drought conditions extending across Oregon and western Washington, and extremely dry conditions continuing through central and eastern Oregon.

Stream flows in Oregon are running an average of 50% below normal this summer, ranging from 30 percent in the John Day basin to as much as 80 percent in the South Coast region.

Full story:

Boaters: ‘Clean, drain & dry’ to halt free rides for invasives

Two men row a canoe across a large lake, with forest and mountain ridges visible in the background. A woman is seated in the center of the canoe, between the rowers.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — March 29, 2018  — The Washington Invasive Species Council and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are reminding boaters to “CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY their boats and equipment to prevent the spread of invasive species and minimize the time spent at mandatory boat inspections at state borders.

“The best way to keep our lakes and rivers clean and free from invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington State Invasive Species Council. “We only have one chance to keep Washington free of these invaders, which wreak havoc on our environment, stop recreation and destroy water-based industries. Once here, invasive species are really hard and expensive to remove. We all must be diligent in making sure we protect our waterways.”

Aquatic invasive species are non-native animals, plants, microorganisms and pathogens that out-compete or prey on Washington’s native fish and other wildlife. They can harm the environment, hinder salmon recovery efforts and damage human health and businesses. They come to Washington from other states and provinces on trailers, boat hulls, motors, wading boots, fishing equipment and in many other ways. Once they become established in one lake or river, they can easily spread to more waters in Washington.

To protect Washington State waters, follow these steps:

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. Equipment includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from boats or gear, including the bilge and live wells and transom wells, before leaving the water access point.

Dry: Once home, fully dry all gear before using it in a different waterbody.

“If you are bringing watercraft from another state and think that your boat and gear may carry invasive species, we urge you to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife before traveling home,” said Allen Pleus, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Aquatic Invasive Species Unit Lead. “Call the state’s aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) and let us know where you used the boat. If there is a high risk, we can inspect your boat and possibly decontaminate it at little or no cost.”

It’s also the law. It is illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

Mandatory Boat Inspections

To combat the threat, WDFW is ramping up mandatory inspection stations at our borders and high risk water bodies to make sure that infested watercraft don’t slip into Washington.

“There is so much at stake,” said Capt. Eric Anderson of the WDFW Enforcement program. “Invasive species, like quagga and zebra mussels, threaten Washington’s dams, farm irrigation systems, drinking water supplies and our precious natural resources.”

In 2017, WDFW opened two mandatory inspection stations at borders in Spokane and along the Columbia River at Plymouth, southwest of the Tri-Cities. WDFW checked more than 10,000 boats as they entered Washington. This year, the inspections stations will open in early spring and run until late fall.

“We are trying our best to keep invasive mussels out,” said Sgt. Pam Taylor, of the WDFW Enforcement program. “So if you are transporting watercraft into Washington, be prepared to stop!”

Also this year, WDFW has partnered with the National Park Service to provide greater protection of the Columbia River basin. An agreement between the two agencies gives national park rangers at Lake Roosevelt National Area authority to conduct boat inspection throughout the summer. This agreement is considered a groundbreaking move in the fight against aquatic invasive species and could be implemented at other national parks.

Mandatory Prevention Permit for Out-of-Staters

In addition to the inspection stations, people from out-of-state need to buy a WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit before using their boats and other watercrafts on Washington State waters. New this year, the permits can be purchased online. The prevention permit also is required by seaplane operators and commercial transporters of vessels.

“Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species is serious business,” Pleus said. Researchers estimate that invasive zebra and quagga mussels alone could cost the power industry more than $3 billion, and industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years.”

“As a boater, your diligence in preventing aquatic invasive species will protect Washington’s water and ensure that future Washingtonians can experience the same water activities that you enjoy,” Capt. Anderson said.

“Washington State and the Pacific Northwest are the last area in the United States to be free of these invasive mussels, and we want to keep it that way,” Bush said. To protect the Pacific Northwest, tribes, the federal government, states and nonprofit organizations have come together to address this issue through research, inspection and decontamination efforts and rapid response exercises.

The Invasive Species Council, established by the Legislature in 2006, provides policy level direction, planning and coordination to combat and prevent harmful invasive species throughout the state. To learn more about how you can prevent the spread of damaging invasive species, visit the council’s Web site. Learn more about aquatic invasive species by visiting WDFW’s Web site.


Staff report, Washington Invasive Species Council & Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife PAO