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Viewing beavers in central oregon

What to Look For

Beavers are the state animal of Oregon – but many residents and visitors never see them in their natural habitat. Hopefully with the tips below, you’ll be able to spot some beaver action near you!

© Kathleen Dobson, some rights reserved (CC-BY)

Why are beavers so elusive?

Beaver populations are making a comeback, but they were trapped nearly to extinction around the turn of the 20th century. Beyond low population numbers, beavers are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. 

Your best chance at observing these shy rodents is at dusk or dawn. Beavers are almost always seen close to rivers, streams, and lakes where they build their lodges, dens, and dams, as well as forage for food. Chances are, you have actually seen some beaver handywork on your favorite body of water. Look for beavers near piles of logs known as logjams, small creeks/tributaries leading off of larger rivers, and pools of calm, slow moving water. 

The largest rodent in North America is our friendly neighbor and might be even closer than you think. Keep reading to learn about some of the locations where beavers are known to make appearances around Central Oregon!

Most Common Beaver Sign: Gnawed/Cut/Felled Sticks and Trees

Have you ever been recreating near a water source and noticed a felled tree that looks like it has a pointed or conical cut edge? Maybe you found a few sticks floating in the water that inexplicably almost appeared to be carved into a spear shaped point?

Beaver not only fell trees and other foliage to create their dams/lodges.  They are also the beaver’s primary source of food. Beaver are very elusive, so while it can be uncommon to observe them during daylight hours (especially out of the water), their signs are much easier to spot as well as more common to locate and identify.

© Blair, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
© Tom Wainwright, some rights reserved (CC-BY)

Dams and Lodges

Beaver dams and lodges are another form of beaver sign that can be easily identified and are a great indicator that beaver are active in that area! Keep an eye out for log jams near creeks, rivers, lakes, and other riparian areas. Beaver lodges may be built on banks, or over bodies of water. They can take many shapes and forms, but typically will consist of piled logs, sticks, grasses and mud. Entrances are often below the water line and may not be observable from shore.

© Anthony Brais, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
© beaverkait, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Locations with Frequent Beaver Sightings

Deschutes River near Bend

Believe it or not, you can see beavers right in the heart of Bend! Beavers have been spotted near the Old Mill, in Mirror Pond, and near River Bend Park. 

It may be less likely to catch a viewing here than other places, simply because of the heavy human traffic and noise pollution. Your best chance to see a beaver swimming by is early dawn or dusk. 

Shevlin Park

Beloved Shevlin Park on the west side of Bend is another prime beaver viewing location. Beaver have been noted up and down Tumalo Creek which flows through the park. They typically are found amidst dense foliage – but if you are lucky you can see the resident families of beavers early in the morning or right at sunset if you simply walk down the main path with a view of the creek.

Deschutes River - Sunriver and La Pine Area

Beaver are routinely observed in the lazy, wide, slow-moving stretches of the Deschutes River near Sunriver and La Pine. Families of beaver have been known to reside right at the river by the Sunriver Nature Center!

© Will Andrews, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
© nordsman, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Cascade Lakes

Beaver have been spotted (especially by the tributaries leading in and out of) on Wickiup Reservoir and Crane Prairie Reservoir. Look for small, protected coves, and again, dusk or dawn are your best bets!

These are not the only places in Central Oregon that beavers live. They have been spotted near the Crooked River in Prineville, Prineville Reservoir, the Metolius outside of Sisters, on the Deschutes near Redmond and Crooked River Ranch, and more! They are also well known throughout Eastern Oregon.

If you see a beaver or beaver sign - let us know!

We are constantly eager to learn more about our secretive friends around Central Oregon – and citizen science and observations are one of the most powerful tools to learn more! We can only be so many places at once, and simply telling us where you observe beaver activity can be a significant aid in studying and preserving this important species. 

If you see a beaver, or beaver signs, please aid in conservation efforts by filling out a quick response on our Beaver Sighting page.