Beaver Dam on Kirby Place
with wetland above it

Went down to sit by the beaver dam on the Kirby Place.
We’ve been having rains regularly of late
and so the creek waters rush and vanish,
as they do on the prairie.
They usually have at least some water in them,
in places,
then flood
and often go dry.
Over the years, the conservation people
have built a series of flood-control dams and lakes
to try to maintain a more steady flow of water
through the watershed
and finally into the Gulf of Mexico.
But the human constructions don’t seem to work as well
as the beavers’ constructions.
This beaver community
has been maintaining their home here
for twenty years.

Though water is rushing down the creek at one end of the dam,
it is still a slow process,
which means that a most amazing and healthy thing
is happening above the beaver dam:
there is a broad wetland,
which doesn’t go dry,
and the creek above it
is still out of its banks.
Farther upstream,
the creek is already back to normal,
or below normal.
Though rushing through one end of the beaver dam,
the water here is only slowly making its way down the creek
below the beaver dam.
In the meantime,
the wetland provides habitat for life
and helps recharge the water table.

In modern times, beavers have been trapped and killed
to prevent them from damming the creeks.
They normally make a series of dams –
building another upstream when the community gets large enough.
And that causes flooding of farmers’ crop land.
Ironically,
the beavers here can’t go immediately upstream
because there is a flood-control dam about a quarter of a mile upstream.
This beaver community’s dam is situated
where it doesn’t interfere with cropland
and so it has been left alone.

Flooded Doe Creek, just above the beaver dam

Coming here
is like entering a sacred place.
It is a natural wonder.
The sense of the healthy life here
is palpable.
It must have been like this all across the Great Plains
long ago.

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