Dam It! Beavers and Us: One Word Sunday

I’m always on the lookout for beavers when walking the river trails in the Old Mill District of Bend. I listen for the sound of a tail slapping the water and search for the silhouette of a rounded head breaking the water’s surface. Why look for beavers next to a shopping area? Because these industrious creatures found an ideal spot to build a lodge there. I’ve always wanted to know more about beavers, so I visited the Museum’s Dam It! Beavers and Us exhibition.

Beavers exhibit in Bend

This multimedia interactive exhibit offers visitors the opportunity to learn all about the North American beaver, Castor canadensis. Tall, cutout panels representing forest trees divide the room. Dappled light shines onto the imaginary forest floor. A re-creation of a beaver dam is tucked into a corner for kids to explore.

Beavers exhibit in Bend

In another corner, a large box suspended from a parachute drifts towards the ground—more on that later. An Oregon flag, featuring a beaver, flutters against a wall near the entrance. Video featuring the important connection of beavers with Native Americans plays in another section. A colorful animation featuring the life cycle of beavers plays on a large screen on the back wall.

Parachuting in Idaho

History of beavers

In the center of the room, displays of articulated skeletons, fossils, and beaver-chewed trees draw your attention. One skeleton shows a North American beaver, while the other shows a giant beaver, Castoroides. As its name implies, the giant beaver was much larger than present day beavers. The extinct giant beaver weighed 198 to 276 pounds, while modern beavers weigh 24 to 71 pounds. Dramatic changes in the landscape after the Ice Age may have led to this large mammal’s demise during the Pleistocene era.

Beaver skeletons & fossils

In the more recent past, beavers have played an important part in Native American culture. The Blackfeet Nation considers beaver to be one of the three original animals. They played a key role in the distribution of water and land. Beavers also taught people how to be moral. Though many tribes traded skins with settlers, Blackfeet chose not to because of beaver’s cultural importance. They celebrated beavers in a ceremony called the “Beaver Bundle”, an event passed down through generations.

In the late 1800s, things changed for North American beavers when European demand for their skins skyrocketed. They used beaver skins in creating hats and other products. The mercurous nitrate used in curing felt for hats led to the term “mad as a hatter” because of the chemical’s toxic side effects.

Beaverskin hat

Because of high demand, beavers were overtrapped and prime habitat was destroyed. Beaver populations plummeted. One of the contributing factors was the Hudson Bay Company’s (HBC) decision to destroy beaver populations “as fast as possible” to discourage westward migration from American competitors. In the period from 1823 to 1841, HBC intended to make the Snake River territory a “fur desert.”

Trapping of beavers

Changing perceptions of beavers

  By the end of the 19th century, perceptions of beavers changed and conservation efforts began. In the 1920s, they moved beavers to areas where they lived in the past. Scientists recognized the value of the beaver in wetland habitat management.

We know beavers as one of nature’s engineers. The ponds and channels they create support diverse flora and fauna. As the effects of climate change increase, these sites serve as important refuges from wildfire, and they also help reduce flooding. 

The exhibit highlights the stream channels beavers help create around rivers in two large-scale images. One features an enhanced image taken near Sunriver. The many abandoned braided channels around the Little Deschutes River stand out in this picture.

Willamette River

The other picture, of the Willamette River, uses LiDAR imagery to show the stream channels that existed over the last 12,000 years.

Little Deschutes River channels

This exhibition features several examples of current work involving beavers. In 2016, in Birch Creek, Idaho, five beavers released near the creek enhanced the habitat. Rare Bonneville cutthroat trout populations increased after the introduction. The Tulalip Tribes, in Washington State, relocated beaver to streams on treaty lands as part of their watershed management program. Other tribes plan to follow their lead. In Oregon, biologists created Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs) on East Fork Beech Creek and Bridge Creek. These artificial dams established habitat for beavers and fish populations have rebounded.

Surprising facts

Back to the box suspended from a parachute mentioned earlier in this article. Why is this box featured in the exhibit? In the 1940s, wildlife agencies dropped beavers from planes in crates designed to open on impact. This method helped re-establish beaver populations in remote areas.

Beaver liquor & coat

There is one more item of interest to mention in this exhibit. Did you notice the bottles of alcohol in the display case on the left side of the photo above? Those bottles contain Eau de Musc whiskey. Tamworth Distilling flavors this whiskey with castoreum, an oily substance from castor sacs located under a beaver’s tail. The distillery notes its “bright and fruit qualities (raspberry) and rich leathery notes along with creamy vanilla aroma.” Would you care to make a toast to beavers with a glass of this? I’ll leave that decision up to you, but we should celebrate this engaging exhibit for teaching us more about our remarkable state animal.

This exhibit is on display at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon through October 3, 2021.

One Word Sunday – Exhibit

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for High Desert Voices, a newsletter published by and for volunteers at the High Desert Museum. This article was featured in the August 2021 issue.

Windmill at Fort Rock: 1-to-3 Photo Challenge

I thought this windmill at Fort Rock would make a good candidate for showing three ways to process a photograph. I used the photographic effects in Corel PaintShop Pro 2021. This picture was taken at the Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum in Central Oregon.

Prior to trying other effects, I decreased the brightness by 4 and increased the contrast by 10.

The first two show the original and a platinum processed image. This processing was popular from 1873 to 1920 but was discontinued due to the high costs of platinum. For this image I went to Effects>Photo Effects>Time Machine>Platinum. I tried black and white processing but liked the slightly warmer tones of this effect.

Windmill at Fort RockPlatinum process

The second two show the original and a cross process image. This process resulted from mismatching the film and development chemicals on purpose. For this image I went to Effects>Photo Effects>Time Machine>Cross Process. This effect oversaturates the colors and they really pop.

Windmill at Fort RockCross process

The last two show the windmill at Fort Rock original image and the same picture with a glowing edges effect. For this image I went to Effects>Artistic Effects>Glowing Edges. This is a more artsy effect. I bet it would look good under black light! 😉

Windmill at Fort RockGlowing edges effect

One-to-Three Photo Processing Challenge – September 2021

Golden Galway Stairwell: WW, LAPC, & LIC

Golden Galway stairwell

Wordless Wednesday (WW)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC)- Looking Up/Down

Life in Colour (LIC) – Gold

A desert wander discovery: WPW

On a desert wander, clouds fill my head. A scrub jay calls to me in its raucous voice and my attention shifts. I stumble over a rock, plain and gray. The rock beckons me to pull it from the sandy soil. Just a rock, I think. Dark and hardened, like my thoughts. It’s stuck fast in the soil and I pry it loose with a juniper twig. 

desert wander rocks


I cup the rock in my hand and feel its weight. Though it appeared ordinary in the soil, it is not. Other hands have held this rock. They chipped away the darkness to reveal a shining edge. My fingers trace its sharpness; an unforeseen treasure from the past brought to light. My desert wander turns to wonder. As dawn breaks, the clouds lining the horizon disappear.

High desert rock from past
High desert rock

Weekly Prompts Wednesday – Unforeseen

Colocasia esculenta Mural: Monday Mural

Colocasia Esculenta mural

This Colocasia Esculenta mural, created by Danny Fry in 2020, shows colorful elephant ear plants. This plant, referred to as taro or kalo, is common in Hawaii, where Danny grew up.

The colorful leaves of this mural represent the mix of people here in Bend, Oregon. Many people move here from other locations, and this mural reflects that growth in a positive light. For example, Bend hosts several thriving restaurants and businesses run by Hawaiians.

Continue reading

Spectacular sights seen in blue & green: LAPC

I’ve been out and about more recently and photographed several spectacular sights seen in blue and green.

I thought the pictures deserved a story, so I made up a tiny tale to go with each one. At a virtual conference I attended yesterday, I learned a “micro-story” is a form of flash fiction with 300 or fewer words. I’m calling the following stories “mini-micros” since they range from 43 to 58 words. Not sure if they qualify as true stories, but they were fun to write.

Mini-micro tales

A crowd of manzanita shrubs watches a shifting skyscape in awe. Their pink blossoms open in silent applause. Snow-covered Cascade volcanoes rumble in the background, taking in the show from a safe distance. Steam billows from their peaks, merging with the dancing clouds.

Spectacular sights seen near Bend, Oregon
Paulina-East Lake Rd, Oregon

Clouds emerge from a crack in the ground on a chilly spring morning. They radiate outward from the ridgetop and tree branches stretch and reach towards them. Striated boulders celebrate by tumbling and crashing down a steep slope. An osprey drifting overhead crows in anticipation as another glorious day begins.

North shore of East Lake, Oregon
North shore of East Lake, Oregon
Continue reading

Memories of a bison: Sculpture Saturday

This morning I woke up with memories of a bison. This is Wooly Bully by local Central Oregon artist, Greg Congleton. This sculpture used to be in the Old Mill district of Bend but was moved several years ago.

memories of a bison

The artist includes collected bits and pieces of everyday and historical artifacts. For example, the guts are made from four cylinders and a crankshaft. The eyes are -7/8 inch hitch balls. The lungs are made from a Model A Ford horn. He has the vision and talent to incorporate the unexpected into his unique works of art.

Sculpture in Bend, Oregon

Maybe I was having memories of a bison because I was thinking of Yellowstone National Park. I hope to visit again soon and view the animals that inspired this outdoor sculpture.

To see a couple more of Greg Congleton’s pieces, and those of other artists, see Outdoor Horse Sculptures.

Sculpture Saturday

Frost spikes haiku: Haiku Challenge

Frost spikes on a fence

Captured by frost spikes
Struggle against winter’s grip
Glints of sun, released

Ronovan Writes Weekly Haiku Poetry Prompt Challenge #341 — Frost and Glint

Special photos from 2020: LAPC & SS

It’s time to share special photos from the past year. Please enjoy this selection of nature, history, and art photos from Bend Branches.

Nature Photos

One day, while playing around with editing effects, this mirror image of autumn leaves sparked my imagination. I saw a woman wearing a crimson cape in the photo below. The short story I created, The Tree People of Autumn , is based on edited photos of trees.

The tree people of autumn

I tried to turn my camera towards things in my yard more this year. Here’s one of my prickly pear cactus in bloom.

Prickly pear cactus with petals radiating Bend, Oregon 4June2020

We created a big vegetable garden this year. Some of our produce may not have won ribbons at the fair, but it was entertaining. 😊

Three-headed carrot Bend, Oregon August 2020
Continue reading

Recognizing a place in Placed: High Desert writings

I’m pleased to announce that one of my short stories was recently published in Placed: An Encyclopedia of Central Oregon, Vol. 1. This slim volume, however, is not an encyclopedia in the traditional sense of the word. It contains a collection of poetry and prose about this part of the planet. Central Oregon includes sagebrush deserts, thick pine forests, winding rivers, and volcanoes lining the horizon. Placed embraces tales of the wild, but also stories related to unique features – like Ocean Rolls from a local bakery.

Placed: An Encyclopedia of Central Oregon

My contribution is The Toad Queen, written after encountering a Great Basin spadefoot toad in my yard. It is one of the most unique things I’ve observed in Oregon – unlike anything I have ever seen. I snapped a couple pictures of it and gently pushed it off the trail. This creature with such an odd appearance and life history deserves a special story.

Unique sights Great Basin Spadefoot Toad 4May2018
Great Basin Spadefoot Toad
Continue reading

Encouraging words on my walk: Monochrome Monday

I saw these encouraging words while walking my dog in a local park. I shared words seen on another walk on Hopeful words seen on my walk.

Encouraging words on my walk Bend, Oregon August 2020

These words were drawn onto a curving section of the path. In these times of uncertainty, it was nice to see that someone took the time to brighten our days.

Words on my walk Bend, Oregon August 2020
Seen on my walk Bend, Oregon August 2020
Seen on my walk Bend, Oregon August 2020
Continue reading

Household treasures from a different angle: LAPC

I am sharing photos of some of my household treasures taken from different angles. I used a tabletop studio to take these pictures. The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is Everyday Objects.

The first two pictures are of a cricket cage I’ve had since I was about eight years old. I distinctly remember taking it in for Show and Tell. The crickets were chirping in the darkness within my school desk.

This is an antique egg beater I purchased at an antique show in Portland, Oregon. I’m not sure if the parts were meant to go together but that’s how I bought it. I use it regularly and it works great!

Continue reading

High Desert Mural: LAPC & Monday Mural

High Desert Mural Siobhan Sullivan 17 August 2020

I have been busy filling up space and time by creating a High Desert mural. I recently posted more details on creating my Outdoor Pronghorn Painting. This weekend I added three additional paintings to the mural.

Outdoor pronghorn painting by Siobhan Sullivan August 2020
Continue reading

Outdoor pronghorn painting: First Friday Art

Outdoor pronghorn painting by Siobhan Sullivan August 2020

Here’s an outdoor pronghorn painting I did in our backyard. It’s the first Friday of the month so it’s time to share your First Friday Art. If you have artwork you would like to share, use the First Friday Art tag.

We have an 8 x 16 foot shed in the backyard and it had a boring blank west-facing wall. It needed something to make it more interesting. I thought of painting a pronghorn, one of my favorite critters.

Out building prior to painting near Bend, Oregon August 2020
The shed prior to painting
Continue reading

Tiger painting in acrylics: First Friday Art

Here’s a tiger painting in acrylics I did on a small wooden box. I liked how the eyes turned out on this piece.

It’s time to share artwork since it’s the first Friday of the month. If you have something you would like to share, use the First Friday Art tag.

Tiger painting in acrylics by Siobhan Sullivan July 2020

Art at the Amphitheater in Bend

Art at the Amphitheater , Bend, Oregon November 2018

When I walk my dog in the Old Mill district, I always smile when I see the art at the amphitheater. The Les Schwab Amphitheater is the main venue for large events in Bend, Oregon. Minneapolis artist, Erin Sayer, painted the crow on one side of the stage and the owl on the other.

Fellow Minneapolis artist, Yuya Negishi, assisted her. Yuya painted a dragon mural on the side of a building across the river and another mural on a staircase.

Owl mural in Bend, Oregon December 2018
Continue reading

Prairie falcon pen-and-ink: First Friday Art

It’s already First Friday again! Today I’m sharing a prairie falcon pen-and-ink drawing I created. This drawing shows their dark “armpit” marking. That’s one of the ways to distinguish them from peregrine falcons.

Prairie falcon pen-and-ink by Siobhan Sullivan

Here are a couple glimpses of a prairie falcon flying high above the 9,734 foot peak of Steens Mountain in Oregon.

Prairie falcon from the peak of Steens Mountain, Oregon 28 August 2019
Prairie falcon from the peak of Steens Mountain, Oregon 28 August 2019

Share artwork you or someone else created with the First Friday Art tag.

Happy Friday!

Irish Stew & Brew: One Word Sunday Challenge

Irish Stew & Brew at the Quays in Galway, Galway County, Ireland 2March2020

A traditional Irish stew & brew at The Quays Bar and Music Hall in Galway, County Galway, Ireland. This stew, accompanied by a Guinness, is a local specialty served at this restaurant.

Wherever you are on this St Patrick’s Day, treasure the things that matter to you the most.

Here’s to your roof,
may it be well thatched
And here’s to all
under it –
May they be
well matched.

Irish Toast

Travel with Intent: One Word Sunday – Specialty

Glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland

She unfurled her gossamer wings and searched for a far away land, greener than green. After a journey of many miles, she caught glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland. When she landed in a lush green pasture, a part of her remembered…

Glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland, Newgrange Monument, 29February2020
Newgrange Monument, County Meath, Ireland

Though I usually keep my travels within driving distance, I just returned from a 10-day trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland with my daughter. After losing my brother and father within months of each other, I felt an urge to visit the land of my ancestors.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim, United Kingdom
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim, United Kingdom

We drove about 1,600 miles and I took lots of photos. I will be sprinkling glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland into my blog occasionally. Enjoy the scenery!

Glimpses of Ireland & Northern Ireland, the Dark Hedges, United Kingdom
The Dark Hedges featured in Game of Thrones, County Antrim, United Kingdom

A sweet spot: The Foxtail Bakeshop

We recently visited a newish bakery for a cup of coffee and a sweet. This sweet spot has a good variety of sweets and beautiful artwork.

Check out this large mural full of flora and fauna. Find out more about the six artists that helped create the artwork in this space here.

Sweet spot. Foxtail Bakeshop, Bend, Oregon. February 2020

The front counter has bold black and white tilework.

Foxtail Bakeshop counter. February 2020
Continue reading

Noticing the lines in a scene: LAPC

When I travel, I think about photographing what I see by noticing the lines. Your eye wants to follow where they lead you. Here a few leading lines from northern Oregon.

Noticing the lines on the way to Hood River, Oregon 10October2019
Fall foliage along Oregon Route 35
Passing by Mt Hood, Oregon 11October2019
Passing by Mt Hood
Continue reading

Tunnel of Joy in Bend: LAPC

I often walk through this “Tunnel of Joy” by the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon. I call it that because the bright artwork is so joyful. I’ve previously featured one side of the bridge and the other but never the inside of the tunnel.

Tunnel of Joy in Bend, Oregon July2017

The abstract painting lining the tunnel is by artist, Tom Cramer. He works in a variety of media and is one of the most successful artists currently working in Portland, Oregon. His best-known mural was “Machine”, painted in 1989.

Tunnel of Joy in Bend, Oregon July2017

At first this mural appears to just be random shapes, but if you look closer you may notice shapes you recognize. I see faces, hearts, snakes, and wings. You can use your imagination to find objects in an abstract work of art.

Continue reading

Tiny Tin Pan Theater

You can find the Tin Pan Theater tucked away in an alley in downtown Bend, Oregon. If you didn’t know it was there, you could walk right past it.

This tiny theater only has 28 seats. You might not see the next Avengers movie there, but you will see some great movies. Indie films like The Nightingale, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of my Voice, and Maiden. They also feature foreign films.

Tin Pan Theater in Bend, Oregon, 24July2019

Get there early because seats fill up fast. You can enjoy some popcorn and drinks while you’re waiting–including some local brews.

The bar, Bend, Oregon 24July2019

This theater received good news recently. BendFilm purchased the property in May 2019. The BendFilm Festival takes place in October and films can be viewed at this theater and several other locations. This festival was recently recognized by MovieMaker Magazine as being one of the 25 coolest film festivals in the world.

Continue reading

Catlow Cave Artifacts: Monochrome Monday

Catlow Cave artifacts, including sagebrush bark sandals, grass & bark baskets, and arrowheads & spearpoints, are displayed at the Harney County Historical Society Museum in Burns, Oregon. There are a couple pointed sticks that may be “knitting needles”, used to knit the sagebrush bark together.

These cave artifacts are between 9,000 to 10,000 years old. The Northern Paiute people lived in this region. There are several caves in the Catlow Valley cliffs. Petroglyphs adorn some of the rock faces.

Cave artifacts, Catlow Cave, Oregon 12April2019
Cave artifacts, Catlow Cave, Oregon 12April2019

Do you want to learn more about the native peoples who lived in this area thousands of years ago? Consider taking a guided tour to the Fort Rock Cave hosted by Oregon Parks and Recreation. Be sure to visit the nearby Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Museum. This small museum has more examples of cave artifacts from this region. The woven items were practical but also works of art with distinctive patterns.

Surrounded by color & texture

Color & texture in Bend, Oregon 9August2019

Color & texture surround you as you sit on this comfortable bench in Bend, Oregon.

Pull up a seat challenge