You don’t appreciate the real power of a river in flood until you see what it leaves behind. Walking along the bluff of the lower Minnesota River at Rapids Lake National Wildlife Refuge, we came to a stand of trees about 30 feet above the river that were entangled with river debris.
The bluff itself is a very loose mound of sand, but its elevation above the water is what is remarkable.
The ground is covered in leaves, but underneath them is a deep layer of fine sand. Branches are piled around the bases of the trees, carried there by flood water.
A deep hole in the sandy bank with vertical slides angling down to it hints of the presence of beaver here, although the river is too wide and is running much to fast for them to try to dam it. Above the beaver “abode” (not really a lodge) is a stand of willow and aspen — favorite beaver food.
Further down the river, I spied a solitary beaver out foraging in the late afternoon for a snack. It looked like an otter from this distance (using all 400 mm of my telephoto here!)
The beaver found a nice snack of willow which it carried down to the river.
Fortunately the beaver was completely uninterested in me creeping closer to it along the opposite bluff of the river (still a great distance away).
I suppose soaking the willow branches in water softens them up a bit. The beaver remained in this position for 20-30 minutes chewing away on his willow snack.
The Gehl farm, just down the hill from the Visitor Center, had a marvelous view of the Minnesota River. Mr. Gehl raised thousands of turkeys on his river property and built an enormous stone barn to house them — the ruins of the barn in the foreground. The land which was once farmed is now being restored to native prairie.