how do you portage over a beaver dam?

We are doing a route this year that sometimes has beaver dams in the way and you need to portage them. If there is no route through on the side, how do you do this?

Last year, we saw one dam that had either been vandalised or was damaged by rains, no-one was quite sure. I’d be pretty sad if someone destroyed a beaver dam on purpose in that environment.

My experience
When we were in Alaska on several different trips, we came to them in small narrow rivers just like you are describing, and we found that they are very tough, and we just dragged the boats, (in our case they were kayaks) over them and didn’t damage them.

Last year in the Adirondack 90 miler, in Browns tract there was a new one, and all 400 paddlers went over it. Some went to the side, but when there was a jam up of paddlers, they were all over it, and I didn’t see any damage

Jack L

If the link inside works, click it and
you’ll see our canoe part-slid over a beaver dam that had been erected on the stream in less than ten days, between when we paddled in and when we paddled out. On the way in, the only sign of a dam was some mounding of sand left from previous beaver efforts.

I agree that wilderness travelers should not destroy beaver dams without reason. On the other hand, beaver can repair damage from canoes being sensibly slipped over. It isn’t any more of an issue for them than damage from a flash flood or from a clumsy moose.

I figure we have a right to be in the wilderness, in reasonably small numbers, and with reasonable behavior. Beaver and other species adapt to the presence of humans, if we don’t smash around wantonly, shoot what we don’t need to eat, or pollute the air and water.

I wouldn’t want paddlers to risk injury by taking difficult, roundabout ways around beaver dams. When you look at it, beaver are like the Corps of Engineers. They hate the sound of water running, and sometimes they go too far.

Up and over
Beaver dams are extremely tough. You can very carefully haul over them. Be careful though, it is really easy to step through a dam and get hurt. And go slowly so that you don’t dump.

On the chance that you do damage it, worry not. The beavers will repair it literally over night.

Remember its pretty deep on the
upriver end. Solo I usually “parallel” park and just drag the boat over carefully so all the pack weights don’t crack the hull.

Tandem you can point one end in and the bow paddler get out. Then the stern can walk over the packs…(usually carefully and perhaps on the gunwales on all fours) and also get out on the bow. Slide the boat loaded over and get in downstream. Its often easier to get in tandem with the boat parallel to the now upriver dam.

Some of us have to do that on everyday paddles. Some rivers sport about a dozen dams in a few miles.

The bow paddler throws a grenade and you paddle thru the gap it creates. By the next day the beavers have it repaired.

Beaver dams are the place where a heavyweight WW Grumman with a shoe keel is the boat to have. Accelerate to ramming speed and over you go.

Kim the Minnesota IV is a real trip to get over a tall beaver dam. a 23’ see-saw with usually no way to get it sideways to get back in. Long walk on the gunwales for the bow paddler and number 2 when there is gear in the boat.


Well thats what we do in Wabakimi

– Last Updated: Jun-13-13 2:23 PM EST –

with out Souris River Wilderness 18.

Don't try the grenade thing. At least in the Adirondacks that can get you in a heap of trouble. If I were on a flooded road in Woodland would be an idea..there is no one for a hundred miles.

Admittedly, I am not looking forward to "les barrages du castor"

Blasting through
is indeed a hoot and it works well going downstream, not so well upstream :slight_smile:

I love doing these kinds of things in a borrowed canoe but eventually folks get wise to you and stop letting you use their boats. My father in-law has placed his canoe off limits (to me) after my son and I ran down the Racquette in spring run off last year…no damage but he was appalled to learn where we had gone… oh the horror! What a hoot…monster standing waves, suck holes, huge drops in a few places, yahoo!

agreed, just don’t step through the roof
If you total-up the accumulated time since their existence…they’re the busiest engineers of the planet…

maybe, but
I’d vote for termites or ants

If its a very old beaver dam
you portage like any other. In La Verendrye there are some well established barrages du castor. There is no blasting through them. You can camp on top of them…literally.

think you’re right there Mattt
ants and termites…

If you slip and fall in
Remember to keep your mouth shut and don’t drink the water. Don’t want to get giardia which is sometimes called beaver fever.