Beavers dam up canoe and kayak business

Posted: Monday, August 05, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Busy beavers are keeping Larry Katkin's canoe and kayak rental business on the Chena River dammed up.

Katkins would like to promote paddle trips on the Noyes Slough, but beavers are keeping his business dammed up. An estimated 30 to 50 beavers live in the slough and frequently close it off with their dams, making navigation taxing.

''Hearty souls do it, but it's really a lot of work,'' he said of paddling the 5-mile waterway through subdivisions on the north side of town.

Katkin and John Carlson, director of the slough preservation group called the Noyes Slough Action Committee, think that with fewer dams, the canoe route would be the most popular in town.

Paddlers could enter the slough from the Chena River on the west side of town, paddle it until it reaches the Chena again, float back to where they started from, load up and go home.

As it stands, the beavers are keeping people away who don't want to have to hop out of their canoes, drag them out of the water and walk around the beaver dams to continue.

''We just want to reduce the numbers a bit,'' said Carlson. ''The goal is to reduce the dams, not to eliminate the beavers.''

The action committee has battled beavers for years.

''I'd say the beavers so far have been winning,'' Carlson said.

About a half-dozen beavers were trapped in the slough last winter. But that barely put a dent in the population.

Jeff Selinger, a Soldotna wildlife biologist who used to work here and is familiar with Fairbanks beavers, said that because beavers are rodents they reproduce quickly. They live about four to a den and tend to disperse in the spring as the den grows.

''They'll cross long distances looking for places to set up home,'' Selinger said.

Brad Snow, president of Fairbanks Paddlers, said the dams on the slough don't bother him. It's the patches of low water that are troublesome, he said. ''It's not hard to get over the beaver dams. You just paddle up to them, lift your canoe over and go on your way,'' he said.

The action committee began its battle with the beavers by demolishing dams, but beavers rebuilt the first dam they took down in three days, Carlson said.

The group placed pipes through muddy dams to stimulate water flow in the area. The beavers had a solution to that effort, also. ''They swim under and they jam stuff in the pipe. It's incredible,'' Carlson said.

Carlson, who is also the head of the borough trails commission, said he doesn't hate beavers. ''They're cute. I just think that with a few less dams, the slough would be the best canoe run in town.''

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