The list of those who work the Mississippi River as it flows through Minneapolis is much shorter today than it used to be. Fewer tugboat captains, fewer deckhands. But beavers, those riparian workaholics, are still at it.
I first saw them a few years ago in the east channel of the Mississippi River near Nicollet Island. A whole family: mom, dad, a few beaverettes. They seemed to be living in a slightly ramshackle house of sticks on the shore, but the whole thing washed away in high water the next year.
Well, they’re back. Or at least one of them is. And here’s the house he’s working on.
A few mornings ago, he was hauling sticks. I’m not sure whether he was adding sticks to his house or stashing them away for winter food. But he did all this stick-hauling just below Main Street, near the Japanese restaurant Kikugawa and the newly-relocated Wilde Roast Cafe. On shore there was much less activity — an occasional runner, an occasional car. Fairly quiet at 6 in the morning.
Beavers are nocturnal and I’ve never seen this guy in the afternoon. Maybe his night shift was ending and he was hauling his last stick. At any rate, I felt lucky to get video of this rather large rodent going about his work.
American beavers were nearly wiped out in the 1800s by international demand for beaver felt hats, but these days we go hatless as we discover how these big rodents help create wetlands and improve the quality of waterways. Odd to think of rodents being a sign of a healthy waterway.
And speaking of that, a few days earlier I saw a series of small oil slicks traveling downstream on the same spot of the river. When I called the city’s help line (311), the dispatcher said, Oh yeah, we get that sometimes.
I didn’t mention the beaver. I wasn’t sure an oil slick dispatcher person would necessarily care about a beaver building a house in the middle of the city — against all odds — and therefore we shouldn’t spill oil. The dispatcher did say he would send someone out to take a look. I hope he did.
By the way, I don’t think our downtown beaver is building a new dam on the Mississippi — just a house, and kind of a small one at that.
One last photo: the beaver house is just off the frame to the left, but you can just see the log that he swam past, and in the background, the Third Avenue Bridge. It will be a peaceful place in the winter to hang out and chew sticks.