Saturday, April 18, 2015, a friend and I set out to paddle Beaver Creek, one of my favorites and I think a favorite for many paddlers. I lead tours of the creek at least four times a year, oftentimes more as weather—rain and wind—permits. It’s a beautiful creek on the Oregon coast where paddlers can paddle 2.5 miles upriver and then paddle practically to the ocean surf.
Last year, a group of paddlers I was leading on a November paddle of the creek had the pleasure of sitting in their boats watching Coho salmon swim by on their way up the creek to spawn. I’ve seen a variety of wildlife on the creek: river otters, muskrats, bald eagles, ospreys, Canada geese, even garter snakes swimming across the creek.
On this venture out on the creek, we encountered four nutria on the creek. I had never spotted a nutria on the creek. Now I know what you’re thinking, “He’s excited about seeing a nutria? They’re not even native, and they’re also destructive.” Yes nutria can be destructive, especially to irrigation ditches. My friend, Karen Perry, and I were able to approach within five feet of one nutria sitting on a small mound in the creek. Apparently, this was its regular resting mound because grass had been laid out to form somewhat of a bed. The nutria, eventually feeling it space being invaded, dropped into the water, but it never swam away. Instead, it approached my canoe, emitting some long, soft grunts. Determining that we had worn out our welcome, we continued up the creek.
The resident osprey pair were back on their nest situated on top of a power pole. They seemed to be feeding young. I was able to snap some pictures, but I could never seem to get the shot I wanted of one returning to the nest while the other was in the nest. Wildlife just never seems to cooperate when you’re trying to get that great shot.
Besides getting up close and personal to that one nutria, one of the other things that made this trip unique was our discovery of another water trail to explore. I will be adding this trail to future paddle trips I lead on the creek. I had become so accustomed and set in my usually routine of exploring the main creek that I had overlooked this new section of the creek. The total distance of navigable water is probably only half a mile, it opened up new areas to observe wildlife.
We did have a close encounter with a turkey vulture in this new section of the Beaver Creek Natural Area we were exploring. The bird flew within feet over our heads. The bird was so close, in fact, that I was able to get a nice shot of it, and you can see clearly through the bird’s nostrils in the image. I have struggled getting a decent shot of birds in flight. Usually they come out blurry. That turned out not to be the case with the vulture.
We overstayed our time on the creek and paid dearly for it on our return back to the boat ramp. The winds came up strong, much faster than the 15 mph the weathermen claimed were the expected wind speeds on the coast for that day. I usually have no trouble paddling in 15-mph winds. The wind was blowing so hard in the afternoon that there were times that no matter how hard I paddled my canoe remained in place. Even kneeling in the center of my canoe to drop my center of gravity, more evenly trim the canoe, and lower the profile I presented in the wind did little except cause my thighs to burn and my knees to ache, and, yes, I did have knee pads on.
Despite the wind and my camcorder battery running out of power before I had finished videotaping my paddle trip, it was a successful and enjoyable trip, educational even. I recommend that if you haven’t ever paddled Beaver Creek, do so, but do it in the morning. The wind typically comes up in the early afternoon. I find 9 a.m. to noon to be ideal. Not sure you want to go there without someone familiar with the area, e-mail me. I’ll be happy to take you on a guided tour.