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!
Got a story to share? Want free stuff?
We'd love to hear from you. If you've got a funny story, adventure or misadventure, or just want to sound off about something related to paddlesports, we want to hear from you. If we select your story to be published you will receive a $40 gift certificate to the Paddling.net Store. Just type up your story and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.