Posted by: James Wapotich | December 31, 2010

Beavers Among Us

The first time I saw evidence of beavers along the Santa Ynez River, some 5 or 6 years ago, I wasn’t ready to believe. I told myself that some kids must’ve thrown willow branches into the river or that perhaps it was debris that had accumulated.

It wasn’t until I went on a volunteer trail work trip with the LPFA to the Sisquoc that I became a believer. On that trip we hiked down the Jackson trail to Sycamore Camp along the Sisquoc River and sure enough there was what clearly looked like a small beaver dam and even more compelling, two cottonwood trees that had all the tell tale signs of beaver activity. Still, I had my doubts, so I asked one of the volunteers and he confirmed that there are in fact beavers along the Sisquoc River.

Los Padres National Forest San Rafael Wilderness Sisquoc River Jackson Trail Sycamore Beavers

Cottonwood Trees with Beaver Sign, Dam is in the background

When I asked how come there wasn’t a beaver lodge in the middle of the “lake” as one would find elsewhere, he said that the beavers here make their lodges along the shore, but that the lodges do look similar. And so I went back to the pool but couldn’t find a lodge. The next morning I happened to hike along a ridge above the pool and from that vantage I did spot the beaver lodge. At last here was irrefutable evidence–a dam, chewed on trees and a lodge.

s Padres National Forest San Rafael Wilderness Sisquoc River Jackson Trail Sycamore Beavers

Beaver Lodge along the Sisquoc River near Sycamore Camp

And so the next time I was along the Santa Ynez River I revisited the places where I had found signs of beavers and sure enough there were small dams and cut trees. But the real moment came one summer afternoon when my girlfriend and I had just finish swimming in one of the large pools between Red Rock and Gibraltar Dam and we were sunning on a rock. There, in the middle of the pool, this head popped up, looking a lot like a wet little dog, surveyed the scene to assess what all the noise was about and then dove back under the water never to be seen again.

I’ve been told that beavers were actually reintroduced to this area. That at one time they were native and trapped out in the 1920s and then later reintroduced in the 1940s by the California Department of Fish and Game. I’ve also been told that beavers are exceedingly shy, so if you see one consider yourself lucky.

s Padres National Forest San Rafael Wilderness Sisquoc River Jackson Trail Sycamore Beavers

Beaver Pond


  1. My farm borders the Santa Ynez river west of Buellton. When the water managers began maintaining summer water flows the beaver started building dams which helped the cottonwoods and willows form a good toe on the banks of the river. The beaver form ponds which somewhat connect pond to pond for a mile or so and although the flood years take everything out they rebuild their dams a maintain them year to year. The trees are quite thick and help shade the river. The beaver are real engineers and help the cattails, duck, and I believe they have to help the steal head although the bullfrogs are thick and potentially a problem for steal head fry.

    • Hi Bruce do you still observe signs of Beaver in the area…I’m curious I have a student looking to do a project on Beaver’s


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