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

Diablo Dam in black & white: Monochrome Monday

At one time, the Diablo Dam in Washington state was the world’s tallest dam. This 389-foot tall dam is located on the Skagit River. Construction began in Diablo Canyon in 1927. Though completed in 1930, the Great Depression delayed generation of electricity until 1936. The 1920s architecture stands out in this black and white photograph.

Diablo Lake Dam

Monochrome Monday

Kingfisher art – sketches & paintings: First Friday Art

Today I’m sharing kingfisher art. I drew the following images several years ago. In studies such as these you attempt to capture the essence of the subject. You’re not going for detail in this type of drawing.

Sketches of birds

John James Audubon

I’m also sharing images of belted kingfishers from a couple wildlife artists. The first painting is by John James Audubon. It’s featured in The Birds of America, published in 1827. I was fortunate to see a volume of this book in a library at a university.

At present, there are only 120 complete sets of The Birds of America known to exist. The 435 engraved plates used to create the original books measure 39″ x 26.” These enormous illustrations helped educate the public about the importance of birds. Interest in The Birds of America persists to this day. In 2018, a full set sold for $9.65 million dollars.

Kingfisher art by Audubon

Louis Agassiz Fuertes

This second illustration, by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, features a Black-billed Cuckoo, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and a pair of Belted Kingfishers. This plate was in Birds of Massachusetts and other New England States, published in 1925. This three-volume set was written by ornithologist Edward Howe Forbush and illustrated by Fuertes.

You may not recognize Fuertes’ name, but he was a gifted artist and ornithologist. In fact in 1891, at the age of 17, he became the youngest member of the American Ornithologists’ Union. He admired the work of Audubon but had his own style of painting.

Paintings of Kingfishers & Cuckoos

Both of these artists worked from specimens they collected in the field to create their kingfisher art. Audubon is known for positioning freshly-killed subjects with wire armature, a revolutionary technique at the time. However, Fuertes put more time into studying birds in their natural habitats. Some think this knowledge gives his paintings an added “sense of vitality“.

Do you have artwork you would like to share? If so, include a First Friday Art tag on your post.

On a corner in Howe – John Day history: MM

I saw this abandoned building on a corner in Howe, Idaho. Though I could not learn the history of this specific building, I learned a well-known historical figure spent part of his life nearby.

in Howe, Idaho

The Little Lost River, located north and east of this site, was once known as “John Day’s River” or “Day’s River.” In 1810, the John Jacob Astor Pacific Fur Company set out to establish a base of operations at the mouth of the Columbia River. They made many discoveries along the way while searching for the easiest routes of travel. John Day, an experienced hunter and trapper, was a member of the party.

John Day’s travels

The group, led by Wilson Price Hunt, divided into four parties when food became scarce. John Day became ill and was left behind with Ramsay Crooks on the shores of the Snake River. The two men eventually made their way to the mouth of the Mah-Mah River, where it joins the Columbia. At that site, the two were robbed of all their belongings and stripped naked by Natives. Because of this incident, the river was renamed the John Day River. Crooks and Day were rescued days later by Robert Stuart, of the Pacific Fur Company, and taken to Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River.

In June 1812, Day accompanied Stuart on a trip back east, but he was left on the Lower Columbia when he appeared to experience an emotional breakdown. He returned to Fort Astoria and hunted and trapped in the Willamette Valley.

John Day in Idaho

When the Pacific Fur Company was sold to the North West Company in 1813, Day became a free trapper working under contract with them. Though exact information on his travels is limited, Day made plans to work in parts of southern Idaho and northern Utah.

In 1820, he was at the Company’s winter camp near Little Lost River, Idaho, with Donald McKenzie. John Day passed away there on February 16, 1820. The winter camp is thought to be near Fallert Springs, Idaho. That’s about 19 miles north of this abandoned building on a corner in Howe.

John Day’s name is associated with:

  • John Day River, Oregon
  • The cities of John Day and Dayville in Grant County, Oregon
  • John Day River and unincorporated community in Clatsop County, Oregon
  • John Day Dam on the Columbia River
  • John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon
  • John Day Formation strata
  • Day’s Defile, Butte County, Idaho (Historical place name near where he is supposedly buried)

For more on John Day, see this article on Oregon Encyclopedia or this one, on the city of John Day’s website.

Monochrome Monday (MM)

Trapper’s cabin re-creation: Monochrome Monday

I saw this life-sized trapper’s cabin re-creation at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. The details in the log walls, elk’s head, and snowshoes stand out in sepia tones. This is one of many amazing exhibits inside the museum.

trapper's cabin re-creation in Cody

Monochrome Monday

The façade of Newgrange – A short history: LAPC

The stone façade surrounding the 5,000-year-old Newgrange monument in County Meath, Ireland is impressive. However, I learned Newgrange’s façade is not what it appears to be.

façade of Newgrange March 2020

I liked the way the patterns in the wall changed from dark-colored stones to dark dotted with white…

Dark & light wall at Newgrange March 2020

To light dotted with dark stones.

Façade - Dark & light wall at Newgrange March 2020

The white stones over the entryway make it stand out.

Entranceway at Newgrange March 2020
Continue reading

Miller cabin in the morning: Monochrome Monday

Miller cabin in Bend, Oregon

I took this photo of the Miller cabin in the morning at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. I used the platinum process for this image. This method, popular from 1873-1920, was discontinued due to the high cost of platinum.

Monochrome Monday

In the Oregon Outback: Monochrome Monday

Here’s a sepia tone view of Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum in the Oregon Outback. Twelve buildings built in the early 1900s were moved to this site. It’s one of my favorite roadside attractions in Central Oregon.

In the Oregon Outback March 2021

Monochrome Monday

Mayors Square Mural in Troutdale: Monday Murals

This photo of the sun-dappled Mayors Square Mural reflects past times in Troutdale, Oregon. Muralists Dwayne Harty and Tammy Callens created a depiction of what the town looked like in the early 1900s. Completed in the fall of 2016, this work shows every type of ground transportation available in the beginning of the 20th century. The mural includes a train, horse & buggy, automobiles, bicycle, freight truck, and freight wagon.

Mayors Square Mural

Monday Mural

Halters & bridles of old: Monochrome Monday

Halters & bridles at Fort Rock, Oregon  November 2020

Halters & bridles on display at the Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum in Fort Rock, Oregon.

Monochrome Monday

Kitchen at Kam Wah Chung: Monochrome Monday

Kitchen at Kam Wah Chung October 2018

The items of various shapes and sizes in the kitchen of Kam Wah Chung stand out in black and white. I visited the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon a couple years ago. As I described in my post about that experience, it was like stepping back in time. This small building served as a general store, apothecary, doctor’s office, boarding house, religious center, and meeting spot for the Chinese people of the community in the late 1800s. Most worked in mines or on railroad line construction.

The co-owners of this business were Lung On, aka “Leon”, and Ing Hay, aka “Doc Hay.” As a result of their hard work, the business thrived for many years. Lung On passed away in 1940. Ing Hay moved to a nursing home in Portland, Oregon in 1948. The building stood vacant until it was opened in 1967. It contained a treasure trove of artifacts–over 30,000 have been cataloged so far.

Visitors can visit this site with a guide to learn more. It is a fascinating tour, made more interesting by the fact that the owners of this business were directly affected by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. It is a part of history many of us never learned. Seeing a site such as this makes overlooked parts of our history come alive.

For information on tours, visit the Oregon State Parks site. Note Kam Wah Chung is only open seasonally and may be affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

First dusting of snow: Monochrome Monday

First dusting of snow Redmond, Oregon

The first dusting of snow covered this old shed near Redmond, Oregon. Winter is on its way to the High Desert!

Monochrome Monday

Wooden wheels: Monochrome Monday

These wooden wheels are featured in a display at Baker Heritage Museum in Baker City, Oregon. This museum offers visitors glimpses of everyday objects from another time.

Wooden wheels Baker City, Oregon

Monochrome Monday

Vaqueros – Tools of the trade: Monochrome Monday

Tools of the trade vaqueros Oregon April 2019

Vaqueros, otherwise known as buckaroos, worked the range in eastern Oregon for many years. The spurs and ring bit pictured were handcrafted by a silversmith in Mexico, circa 1750.

Pete French Round Barn Sept 2017

These pieces are on display in the small museum located at the Pete French Round Barn. It’s a great place to visit from an historic and architectural perspective. The barn is one of my favorite local attractions.

Pete French Round Barn Sept 2017

Monochrome Monday

Plateau Indian Beaded Moccasins: LAPC

I’m featuring pictures of Plateau Indian beaded moccasins for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. The challenge this week is “A labor of love.”

After so much was taken away from Native Americans, creating beadwork became a labor of love. They preserved parts of their culture by decorating everyday items.

Plateau Indian beaded moccasins, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020

Prior to the European invasion of North America, Native Americans decorated their clothing with shells, porcupine quills, and bones.

Beaded footwear, High Desert Museum, Oregon August 2020
Continue reading

Wolfe Ranch root cellar: Monochrome Monday

Wolfe Ranch root cellar, Arches National Park, Utah 2May2017

Wolfe Ranch root cellar at Arches National Park, Utah. This ranch was settled in 1888 by John Wolfe and his oldest son.

Monochrome Monday

The Choctaw’s simple act of kindness: LAPC

A simple act of kindness, Kindred Spirits Sculpture, Midleton, Ireland 5March2020

In 1847, the worst year of Ireland’s Great Famine, people of the Choctaw Nation of the southeastern United States sent a gift of $170 to Ireland. The money, worth thousands in today’s dollars, was collected to help the starving people of Ireland. Over a million Irish people died from starvation and disease in the period from 1845 to 1849.

Honoring a small act of kindness

Cork-based sculptor, Alex Pentek, created the Kindred Spirits sculpture to help honor that simple act of kindness. The Making of Kindred Spirits shows the artist discussing its creation. The 20-foot tall sculpture, in Midleton, County Cork, was unveiled to the public in 2017. It stands in Ballie Park beside a popular walking trail.

Ballie Park, Midleton, Ireland 5 March 2020

But why would the Choctaw have sent such a gift when many of their people were struggling to survive?

Continue reading

Favorite Pictures 2019: LAPC

It’s that time of year when you share some of your favorite pictures. As usual, I have a hard time narrowing it down. Please enjoy this selection of wild places, wildlife, history, and a pinch of art at the end.

A brilliant desert morning
A brilliant desert morning on my October birthday in Bend, Oregon
Magic in the wind, Nevada 29August2019
Magic in the wind in northern Nevada
Kiger Gorge, Oregon 28August2019
Kiger Gorge on Steens Mountain, Oregon
Continue reading

Beaded bags: LPM Photo Adventure

These beaded bags are some of my favorite works of art. The bags are part of a display at The Museum at Warm Springs. In this region, work with beads began in earnest in the early 1800s. The beads, created in the glass shops of Venice, Italy, were transported across oceans, mountains, and plains. Settlers, trappers, and explorers used them in trade.

When you look at these photos, you will notice something becoming more clear in the background. Right across from this display, there is a modern-day image showing members of the three tribes that live on the Warm Springs Reservation. You can see their reflections in my photos of the bags. It was almost as if they were looking over my shoulder making sure I noticed their presence.

This museum features parts of their history you probably didn’t learn about in school. It also shows their resilience and celebrates their heritage. These beaded bags are a part of their culture that preserve moments worth remembering.

Horse & eagle beaded bags, Warm Springs, Oregon 25 October2019
Continue reading

Sunflowers & Stagecoaches at the Steens

Sunflowers & stagecoaches? You may be wondering how those two things go together.

Last August we explored the Steens Mountain area by car. Did you know you can drive all the way around this 50-mile long mountain and to its 9,700-foot peak at certain times of the year? The views from up there are breathtaking!

Common sunflower

The following pictures are from the dirt road on the east side of Steens Mountain. Common sunflowers, Helianthus annus L., were in full bloom along the road.

Sunflowers & stagecoaches at Steens Mountain, Oregon August 2019

As their name implies, common sunflowers are common throughout the conterminous United States and in parts of Canada and Mexico. Sunflowers have been introduced in other parts of North America and throughout the world. They occur in a wide variety of habitats including prairies, roadsides, near railroad right-of-ways, savannas, and forest edges.

Sunflowers at Steens Mountain, Oregon August 2019
Continue reading

Arrowhead Art at Fort Rock: Monochrome Monday

This interesting collection of framed arrowhead art is on display at the Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum. The obsidian used to make much of this art exists throughout parts of Central Oregon. It is abundant at Glass Buttes . Big Obsidian Flow, (shown here) at Newberry National Volcanic Monument, contains 380 million cubic yards of obsidian. Native peoples had a lot of material to work with close by.

Arrowhead art at Fort Rock, Oregon 30May2019
Framed arrowheads at Fort Rock, Oregon 30May2019
Arrowhead art at Fort Rock, Oregon 30May2019

Monochrome Monday

Camp Hart Mountain: Monochrome Monday

Camp Hart Mountain, Oregon 27 September 2019

Camp Hart Mountain was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and operated from 1937 to 1941. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge , established in December of 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, helped protect pronghorn antelope.

The CCC crew stationed at Camp Hart Mountain helped with many projects such as building roads, stringing telephone lines, and building new structures. After their work was completed, most of the buildings at the camp were taken down. The building in the distance was the infirmary and it’s the only historical building remaining at this site. There is currently an RV campground located here.

By the way, I worked at Hart Mountain years ago and saw pronghorn regularly. Here’s a story of one such encounter.