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Dances with Beaver

Perhaps I would not have mentioned this occurrence, (which will forever after be refereed to as the "Beaver Incident" within my circle of friends,) but for the fact that I paddle a wooden kayak.

Recently I took an evening paddle on the Sammamish River in Western Washington State. The route would be a total of around 10 miles. Referring to the Sammamish River as a "river" is akin to revering to 7-11 as a restaurant. You can buy stuff to eat in 7-11 and the Sammamish River has water in it. The river is more of a trough about 30 feet wide and generally has a barely perceptible current for most of it.

This particular evening was a scorcher and by the time I was a mile or two into the return trip I was in need of a breather. So I took my feet off of the foot braces and slid down into the boat and just drifted a bit. Not long after this I noticed a small beaver swimming opposite me, giving me a wide berth. I ignored him and continued my float. Little did I know that the little delinquent had snuck up behind me until he gave the water a tremendous whap with this tail about 10 feet from my boat. Being the skilled paddler that I am I handled this like an Inuit of old. (read: I nearly fell out of the boat)

Lest I fall pray to any more marine rodent shenanigans I sat up properly in the boat and continued paddling. Even I, a dumb city boy, know that beavers slap their tails on the water as a warning to invaders of their territory but a mile or two down the route I was thinking about that beaver laughing himself sick back in the reeds someplace. "If that ever happens again", I thought to myself, "I think I will answer him with a whap of my own by slapping my paddle blade on the water". After all, if we allow such creatures to run roughshod over a kindly kayaker what is next? If I remember correctly the Spanish/American War was started over a similar incident. (I could be a little off here-history is not my strong suit)

Well, being taught that a good kayaker should always practice his or her skill set in calm conditions I thought that I should give a good slap or two. I raised my paddle and brought the blade down quick emitting a satisfying crack on the water. That was so nice that I thought I would give it another one for good measure. As soon as the blade hit the water the second time the world's largest beaver, about the size of a manatee, came charging out of the bushes that line the river toward my beloved wooden boat. Like a scene from Jaws I tell you!

I don't, or at least I didn't up until that time, have any irrational fear of beavers but anything charging at you suddenly from a blind 20 feet away can cause you to pause. (read: need to change your wetsuit)

Well I believe that the behemoth of beavers must have thought initially that I was a rival come to give him the business. Once he was within 10 feet of my boat he realized that I was not worth the trouble, did a U-turn and let me go on my way. And I, with a bit of an adrenaline rush, did just that.

Submitted Scott Thompson

For more great stories: See the Archive!


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