You can tell there are Beaver (Castor canadensis) at Camp Salmen by the pointy stumps and sticks from the small trees they’ve gnawed.  Humans almost always use saws. Beavers supposedly do this to gather materials for building their dams and lodges.




Man has long admired the animal’s engineering skills. They essentially create favorable habitat for themselves and other species by impounding large ponds in which they find food and shelter. This can radically change the ecology of the part of the woods where they operate and can sometimes leave them at odds with landowners.


Scientific observers have found that the beaver keys in on the sound of running water so it can find a likely place to build a dam and to detect leaks needing repair. One scientist experimented by leaving a tape recorder playing the sound of running water next to a beaver dam overnight (beavers are nocturnal) and found it covered in mud and sticks the next day.


Our local beaver went too far when it began to damage our young cypress trees. I recently found a small, four-inch cypress log with almost all of the bark carefully chewed off. The critter left row after row of neatly spaced gnaw marks as if he was attacking the stick like a corncob. I assume beaver go after cypress bark in the dead of winter when there is not much else to eat. In retaliation I’ve attached a few plastic nutria/beaver/weed-eater guards around some of the trees close by the water. The beaver is probably holed up in the bank nearby.


North America was initially built on beaver pelts. The animal possesses a thick, luxuriant under-fur that Europeans and Americans in earlier times just loved to wear. The trade in these pelts fueled the exploration of the continent and the economies of New France, the western frontier and of the Native Americans.


Besides their pelts, beavers are harvested for their glands. This is truly weird. Back by the base of their wide, fat tail are castor glands that have several uses. The beaver uses them for waterproofing itself and making a scent for marking territory. Humans use the glands to make up to $40 apiece with the Government of Ontario. Perfumers age the gland to get that popular leather smell found in some perfumes and in a new-car aerosol applied to vintage automobiles that have leather seats. Used as a food flavoring, it enhances raspberry and strawberry flavors and by itself tastes and smells like vanilla which leads to its use in some schnapps and cigarette products. Beekeepers use the stuff to prompt bees into producing more honey. Who knew?


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