North Country Trail Beaver Dam Project

Nearly extirpated from Minnesota by 1900 due to over-harvest, beaver populations have rebounded, and they now occur in every county across the State.  Beginning in the early 17th century, beaver hides and caster had been highly sought after by early Europeans for making clothing and perfumes.  In more recent times; declining fur and caster prices, past land use practices, and diminishing numbers of trappers have led to an overabundance of beaver in some areas.  When populations are under control, these highly adaptable aquatic rodents are ideal water conservationists and skilled landscape architects.  However, overabundance of beaver in some areas can lead to flooding and damage to nearby roads, trails, and valuable farm or timber lands.

Early in the spring of 2020, a large beaver dam had been reported along a portion of the North Country Trail, within a mile east of State Highway 371 and south of the Woodtick Trail (roughly 7 miles southeast of Walker, MN).  The water level of pond above the dam had risen to a point where low-lying portions of the popular hiking trail had flooded and become difficult for hikers to navigate.  To respond to the flooding and elevated risk of further trail damage, the Chippewa National Forest and other Forest Service staff from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) removed a portion of the dam by hand and with explosives in June of 2020.  The following photos show the dam before drawdown (left) and after hand removal (upper right) and demolition (lower right).

To minimize continual conflicts with beaver in the area and maintain high biodiversity of wildlife and plants, the Chippewa National Forest is considering a longer-term solution of a boardwalk adjacent to pond.  Although it won't eliminate future issues, the trail can safely remain in place with reduced maintenance costs, and it will provide hikers an opportunity to continue to observe the work of one of nature's wetland management specialists.

Three Forest Service employees remove a beaver dam.