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One of the most important things when living in the Alaskan bush is
having a good place to collect drinking water. Shelter, firewood for
heat, good winter clothing, and a big gun also top the list. Jim was able
to locate our watering hole within the first year of moving to the bush.
A small valley is located about one half mile from our cabin. The valley
has three streams running through it; two of the streams were created
due to natural springs coming up out of the ground. These two streams
come together in the middle of the valley and flow into a third large
stream, also fed by a lake located near the end of the valley.
The large stream flows for about a mile, goes underneath the Alaska
Railroad tracks and empties into a large river called the Susitna River.
The valley is a beautiful sight as a person tops the hill and looks down
into it. The lake cannot be seen from this hilltop because it is around a
bend at the far end of the valley. For as long as anyone can remember
the lake has been there. Another small stream feeds the lake along
with springs that bubble up in the hills surrounding the lake. A large
beaver dam is located at the end of the lake. Water flowing over the
dam feeds the third stream. Our watering hole is at the bottom of the
hill we go over to get to the valley. The water is from a natural spring ?
very pure, crystal clear, and cold as can be without being frozen! It
comes right out of the ground and runs year-round. It is some of the
best tasting water a person could ever drink.
A beaver is one thing that can ruin a drinking water hole. Every few
years, when the beaver population gets too large for the size of the
lake, a few middle-aged beavers go in search of an area to build a new
dam and create a new home for themselves. One day, a few years ago,
Jim and I went to fill our water jugs. As we topped the hill, instead of
looking down in the valley, we were looking at a large lake. Our spring
was submerged under twenty feet of water! The beaver had erected a
dam between two hills at the far end of the valley in just four days. It
took a lot of work, but this time we were able to tear down the dam and
restore our source of drinking water.
It is dangerous for humans to have beavers anywhere near their
drinking water source because all beaver carry the beaver fever virus.
There is no known cure for this virus and it is deadly to humans.
Beaver fever can kill a person within weeks or the virus can linger for
years, slowly deteriorating one's body until they die. Because of this
virus, Jim is very attentive to keeping beavers away from our water
A couple of years after having torn down the beaver dam the first time,
Jim went to fill our water jugs and discovered that, just like before,
beavers were building a dam between the same two hills at the end of
the valley. Jim tried to knock the dam out that day but was unable to
because of pain he was having due to a broken rib. He had broken one
of his ribs a few weeks earlier. It was still healing and causing him a
lot of pain (that is a whole other story all on its own!). This time, Jim
decided to trap the beaver instead of trying to knock out the dam. We
prefer not to trap them, but this time we had no option - it is us or the
The next day, September 9th, 2009, is a day I would love to forget and
a date I will never be able to forget. As Jim was getting ready to go to
the new beaver dam sight to rid the area of beavers, a feeling came
over me that I should go with him this time. I asked him if he wanted
me to go, Jim replies "Yes, you will be helpful since my rib hurts." Later,
Jim and I talked about the intuition feeling I had that day and we are
both thankful I was at the scene during the incident - otherwise Jim
might have bled to death.CONTINUED ON PAGE 2