Trip Report:

All Hands All Brands BDA Installation Volunteer Event

Over the weekend, Think Wild Beaver Works joined several conservation groups from Central Oregon in the Ochoco National Forest to install Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs) along Gray Creek. This initiative aimed to enhance wildlife habitat in the area. The event, named “All Hands, All Brands for your Public Lands,” was co-hosted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Program (TCRP) in collaboration with various organizations including the Oregon Hunters Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, US Forest Service, Western Beavers Cooperative, Oregon State University, High Desert Museum, and others.

Upon arriving at Deep Creek Campground, the scene was bustling with over 70 volunteers who had set up camp and were gathered for a potluck dinner under the shade of trees. The idyllic meadow was dotted with several tents, and numerous trailers were parked along the road.

The atmosphere buzzed with a strong sense of community and camaraderie as like-minded individuals from various conservation groups mingled together. Those who had participated in last year’s “All Hands, All Brands” event greeted each other warmly, reuniting like old friends. It was a gathering where shared passion for conservation and appreciation for public lands brought everyone together in a spirit of cooperation and shared purpose.

After dinner, a briefing on the workday ahead took place, during which an Oregon-based archaeologist shared valuable information about the history of the land and nearby heritage sites. He emphasized the importance of everyone being aware of these sites and showing them proper respect. The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Burns Paiute Tribe, and the Klamath Tribe nations are all descendants of the Indigenous people who have lived for 10,000 years on the land that is today known as the Ochocos National Forest. The space between the Deschutes and Snake River was known to the Shoshoni as the Ochoco – Land of the Red Willow, signifying the historic presence of a plant essential to beaver habitat.

The next morning, volunteers got up bright and early to head to Gray Prairie, where we would install BDAs along Grays Creek. Many volunteers geared up with chest waders and boots, ready to spend the day working in the stream. They were organized into groups of 5-7 individuals and assigned to 5 different BDA sites along the creek. We were excited to learn that LIDAR was used to find the residual signal of previous beaver dams to inform placement of our BDAs.

Installing BDAs involves planting sturdy 6-foot stakes across the creek and weaving thousands of willow and juniper branches between them, then packing sedge mats to fill in any holes. This process gradually builds a dam structure that impedes the flow of water, causing it to pool and spread across the meadow. This mimics a beaver dam and the ponds they create that hold cooler and deeper water that many species can thrive in. We knew we were done with one BDA when after an hour or two, we couldn’t hear water flowing through our tightly packed branches and mud. 

Currently, the creek is surrounded by a desert landscape characterized by sagebrush and dry, crackedground. The hope is that once the water has risen from the multiple BDAs installed along the creek, the meadow will transform into a lush wetland ecosystem that can better support wildlife, including elk, turkey, and of course, beaver!

 

After a challenging and rewarding day of work, the volunteers reconvened at the campground to unwind and celebrate with a large potluck dinner. Chef Rich Stutheit prepared steaks from Cinder Butte meats, adding a delicious highlight to the feast. The spread was diverse, ranging from deviled eggs to bear meat to rhubarb cobbler. Following dinner, a free raffle sponsored by TCRP was held. Prizes included a paddleboard, merchandise from various conservation groups, and homemade smoked cheese.

As the evening wound down, volunteers retired to their tents with full stomachs and the satisfaction of meaningful conservation work accomplished together.

 

Marcella Jiwoo Welter

Beaver Habitat Intern Spring/Summer 2024