Paddling among the summer crowds

The entrance gaped open here and there, like a smile missing some teeth. Dark tunnels disappeared mysteriously deep into the pile of mud and sticks the beavers used to construct the lodge.

The entrance gaped open here and there, like a smile missing some teeth. Dark tunnels disappeared mysteriously deep into the pile of mud and sticks the beavers used to construct the lodge. The whole structure lay in the open, waiting for the water levels to rise and make it more secretive again.

Slowly, we paddled closer. Freshly gnawed sticks, the peeled wood slick like wet skin, floated in the water. We edged the canoe right up to the beaver lodge and tried to peer into the multitude of tunnels. Darkness.

Suddenly, a swell rose where the bottom of the structure met the water. A succession of waves radiated out from the beaver home as one of its inhabitants dove out. The stocky shape swam deftly past us, little feet kicking like a frog, then rose to the surface a few meters behind the canoe. The beaver eyed us suspiciously as she drew circles in the bay. In the next instant, she was followed by her mate.

Yet another turbulence drew our attention back to the lodge as a third, smaller beaver swam out, perhaps a more bumbling, trusting fellow, for he surfaced right next to our canoe. We looked down in wonder at the little brown guy, only an arm’s length away. After a few seconds of contemplation it dawned on him that we were not a floating log and with a loud, if belated smack of his tail, he vanished underwater.

Sam and I waited, half expecting ever more beavers to leave their vulnerable lodge. It would be easy digging for a bear right now. Soft mewing sounds came from inside the pile of sticks – or so I thought for a moment. Babies? We strained our ears but only heard the twittering of birds, until the alarm cries of a couple of Canada geese drowned out all other sounds.

The honking duo flew in a half-hearted way it seemed, just a metre above the water, eventually gaining a bit more height. If not in pursuit, then at least choosing the same general direction as the geese, came an osprey. We nudged the canoe away from the beaver lodge and began paddling again, following the commotion of birds.

All these summer creatures! After the long, long months with few birds and just the odd moose, caribou and wolf around, the variety and number of animals out there is quite staggering. It makes me feel a bit like the local yokel in a resort town who stares at the first wave of tourists with awe and a slack lower jaw.

The wild goose chase ended when the osprey settled daintily on the dead crown of a pine tree, making a fluttery spectacle of folding up his wings. What a show-off. “There’s something in the water,” said Sam. I turned around to see him staring down at the reflecting surface. A light-coloured shape lay down there among the rocks.

“Is it something dead?”

“Not really. It’s pretty cool. Wonder how it got there.”

I drew on my paddle with more effort as the canoe pivoted on the spot. The water threw clouds and sky back up at me, then my eyes fastened on a sunken moose antler.

“That’s an interesting spot to cast an antler! Must have hung on by just a thread until he started swimming.”

We carried on, closer to the tree where the osprey still sat. Such high-strung birds: where a bald-headed eagle would have continued to sit sedately, fixing us with one pale eye, the osprey nervously took to the air again.

Two arctic terns, not feeling too territorial yet, sat on a reef and exchanged endearments in their shrill tongue. I have a weakness for these elegant fliers who travel between the ends of the earth twice a year, for their sheer bravado and roguish attacks on unsuspecting boaters. But my love doesn’t quite extend to their earsplitting voices.

In the distance behind us, we could still see two of the beaver trio patrolling their bay. We paddled home closely to shore, hoping to spot a bear, but only discovered the paw and hoof prints of caribou and wolves in the sand – the other locals who find their home suddenly populated beyond their wildest winter dreams.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Just Posted

A motorcycle with driver pulled over on the right side of the North Klondike Highway whose speed was locked in at 171 kilometres per hour. (Courtesy/Yukon RCMP)
Patrols of Yukon highways find poorly-secured loads, intoxicated drivers

The ongoing patrols which police call ‘Operation Cooridor’ is mainly focused on commercial vehicles.

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

Air North president Joe Sparling said the relaxing of self-isolation rules will be good for the business, but he still expects a slow summer. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)
Air North president expects a slow summer

Air North president Joe Sparling suspects it will be a long time before things return to pre-pandemic times

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Most Read