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Old 08-29-2010, 11:14 AM   #1
Conan
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Getting by beaver dams

My wife and I were just on the Oswegatchie Wed thru Sat. We were base camping at 23 and decided to paddle up to High Falls Friday.

The water had gone down quite a bit from last Sundays' rains but it was still up. After going over a small dam we came to one at least 12" high. There were thick alders on the banks and hanging over and debris on both sides. Because of the rains there was no bank really -- just deep water even on the sides. The water in front of the dam was at least 4' deep. We tried twice to run up it no avail -- the current was quite strong.

This was our first time on the Os and encountering dams going upstream. How do you get up and over (or around) a dam like this?

Thanks!!
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:41 PM   #2
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For me, I paddle up paralell to them, try to find the shallowest water, find some footing & make things up as I go along from there. There is no easy way really and sometimes you just have to get imaginative. Of couse lots of trial & error leads to some better decisions over the years. If there's some kind of shore line exit route that always makes it easier, but sometimes you just have to speed paddle right on top of them, get out as gracefully as you can, and finese your craft over them. Of course canoes & pack-boats are alot easier to do this than kayaks.

One general rule I have always found.....going upstream in the beginning can be a lot of work.....but on the return trip it's fun to find creative ways to run them & increase your ass time. I have a paddin' bud that only gets out of his craft as a last resort....I call him ass-time Fred...the man can do some amazing things w/beaver dams with out leaving his boat............ I also had a lady partner who was exceptional at this manuver...I called her "Dry Foot Lucy"...

A nice pair of light weight boat-shoes/or some of the different styles of wet suit booties always works alot better than hiking boots or the barefoot thing too...and aid in the process..

Great topic!!!

Last edited by paddlewheel; 08-29-2010 at 01:58 PM..
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Old 08-29-2010, 02:06 PM   #3
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Conan,

Sounds like you had a nearly empty boat, is that right? If so here's what works for me:
1. Paddle straight into the dam, lodging the bow in place if possible. Bow paddler may need to move towards the stern, to land the bow more fimly on the dam.
2. Bow paddler gets out on the left, climbing/standing on the dam itself. May have to step on deck.
3. Bow paddler drags the boat as far as practical onto the dam, or just steadies the boat.
4. Stern paddler walks up the hull, gets out on right side of boat, climbing/standing on dam.
5. Both paddlers slide the boat to the upstream side of the dam.
6. Bow paddler climbs in, stern paddler steadies the boat.
7. Stern paddler climbs in, moves forward.
8. Both paddlers paddle upstream, stern paddler returns to his/her seat.

Keep in mind, a tandem boat with the bow or stern supported on a dam can be a little tippy. Keep a paddle in the water or on the river bed or dam as a brace when in the boat.

This may sound complicated, but I and a partner can usually clear a beaver dam in less than a minute.

The above process works best if:
You have boots, or sandals, or water shoes.
The dam is strong enough to stand on.
Boat is not too full of gear.
Boat is strong enough to walk in when not fully supported by water.

Solo boats and pack boats are a little more tricky.
Tandems have a distinct advantage.
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Old 08-29-2010, 02:13 PM   #4
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Paddlewheel's advice is right on--get "imaginative." I avoid two things: getting the canoe stuck on the crest of the dam amidships, because I think, but don't know, that that's the highest risk for serious hull damage. Number two--take great care finding a good footing. Being too hasty and having a foot or leg slip and get caught in a bunch of slippery twigs and branches can be a real disaster.
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Old 08-29-2010, 02:16 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by stripperguy View Post
Conan,

Sounds like you had a nearly empty boat, is that right? If so here's what works for me:
1. Paddle straight into the dam, lodging the bow in place if possible. Bow paddler may need to move towards the stern, to land the bow more fimly on the dam.
2. Bow paddler gets out on the left, climbing/standing on the dam itself. May have to step on deck.
3. Bow paddler drags the boat as far as practical onto the dam, or just steadies the boat.
4. Stern paddler walks up the hull, gets out on right side of boat, climbing/standing on dam.
5. Both paddlers slide the boat to the upstream side of the dam.
6. Bow paddler climbs in, stern paddler steadies the boat.
7. Stern paddler climbs in, moves forward.
8. Both paddlers paddle upstream, stern paddler returns to his/her seat.

Keep in mind, a tandem boat with the bow or stern supported on a dam can be a little tippy. Keep a paddle in the water or on the river bed or dam as a brace when in the boat.

This may sound complicated, but I and a partner can usually clear a beaver dam in less than a minute.

The above process works best if:
You have boots, or sandals, or water shoes.
The dam is strong enough to stand on.
Boat is not too full of gear.
Boat is strong enough to walk in when not fully supported by water.

Solo boats and pack boats are a little more tricky.
Tandems have a distinct advantage.
I disagree with you in one respect, Mike...I think solo craft is much more easier..especially if it's a lightweight craft or even a recreational kayak with a large cockpit...it's a learning curve like any thing else but I mostly paddle solo and after a short time and a couple of screw ups I've got it down to a science...I look at 'em now as a challenge more so than a hinderance....to me the tandem thing w/beaver dams can be "the monkey having his way with a football".......
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Old 08-29-2010, 02:42 PM   #6
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The thing about beaver dams is they are remarkably sound....once you have confidence of your footing you've got half the battle licked...My problem used to be that standing on them I was going to go through them & something drastic would happen.....once you have your footing ....9 times outta 10 you're going to haul what what you have to "good side"...I have walked on top of beaver dams for as much as 100 yards or more...(anyone hike into Hour Pond?)...they are some amazing engineers....(the beaves of course)..they can feel "spongy" but you won't get swallowed up...

I have known folks who mess with them...try to cut a way through....I am totally against that....I look at beaver dams as a good thing..they can be fun & challenging....if all rivers were clear & "free sailing" there would be too many folks & I'd probably stay home & drink too much & talk about the old days & bore everyone to pieces......therefore......beaver dams are a good thing............

Last edited by paddlewheel; 08-29-2010 at 03:00 PM..
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Old 08-29-2010, 03:11 PM   #7
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re their strength, i've been amazed at how strong some of them are. i hunted one season where the route in and out involved regular 2x daily use of a beaver dam as a footbridge for my partner and me.

re clearing them, i generally don't run into beaver dams here in the south. however, as i often paddle solo, and we have a LOT of fallen trees (still suffering from the side effects of hurricanes katrina, rita, and gustav), i have to 'clear' them alone. luckily i travel light most of the time.

the easiest logs are high enough out of the water that you can just weight the bow down, push under, straddle the log while shifting gear, weigh down the rear, and thus worm your way the rest of the way under.

if i have to drag the canoe over, i pull up alongside the log, being careful not to get rolled under (depends on the current and how high it is out of the water). i can straddle the log without even having to stand up. i shift gear toward the stern, pull the bow over, shift some ballast to make the bow heavier, and shuffle it the rest of the way over. i then pull it back alongside, rearrange things, and get back in. this is probably most similar to a beaver dam. worst case, you have to go to shore, unpack, move the canoe, repack, and go.

the worst are logs just barely out of the water. you have to stand on them, or get your behind wet while sitting on them if they're too slippery (as they often are, due to algae), but the nice thing is that you dry out quickly down here.

the ones that are just barely under the water, i just try bull my way over. ramming speed first, then sort of hitch along until your center of gravity is over, then paddle again. sometimes it works, sometimes not. i've had to get out and stand on them, pushing them further into the water, to get my canoe by.
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Old 08-29-2010, 03:28 PM   #8
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Wow! Thanks for the great advice guys. We'll be ready the next time.
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Old 08-29-2010, 08:14 PM   #9
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Conan,

Not sure what type of boat you are using but if it is a light pack boat like a Hornbeck, be very careful if running it up the dam and getting out. If you don't have a solid base when stepping out you run the risk of stress cracks from flex. Just yesterday I found out the hard way doing the exact same thing and now have a couple of patches to show for my mistake. I thought I had it under control and on solid base but I was wrong!
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Old 08-30-2010, 09:47 AM   #10
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A technique I haven't used since the late '50's just came to mind. Carry a staff a couple of inches in diameter and about 5 or 6 feet long with a stub of a branch 3 or 4 inches long close to one end. Approach parallel to the dam. Hook the staff into the dam at about gunnel height and pull the canoe right up alongside. Ideally, do this from about amidship. (I was always doing it solo so amidship came naturally.) With the staff still hooked to the dam, tie it to both gunnels or a thwart. By holding onto the staff with both hands, you can now climb out regardless of how steep the dam, how tippy the canoe, or how tricky the footing, and still have the canoe "in hand." Pull the canoe up and over, re-hook it to the dam, and clamber in. For me, the nicest feature of this method was that the crosswise staff tied to both gunnels made the canoe rock-stable during the entire procedure--if a foot slipped, or sank into the dam, the staff would support your entire weight without capsizing the canoe.

At that time I quite regularly paddled up a lengthy logging channel with as many as a half-dozen dams, all with fairly deep water on both of the steep sides. I don't remember how many "mishaps" I had before working out this system but there were none since.
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Old 08-30-2010, 09:51 AM   #11
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Conan,

Sounds like you had a nearly empty boat, is that right? If so here's what works for me:
1. Paddle straight into the dam, lodging the bow in place if possible. Bow paddler may need to move towards the stern, to land the bow more fimly on the dam.
2. Bow paddler gets out on the left, climbing/standing on the dam itself. May have to step on deck.
3. Bow paddler drags the boat as far as practical onto the dam, or just steadies the boat.
4. Stern paddler walks up the hull, gets out on right side of boat, climbing/standing on dam.
5. Both paddlers slide the boat to the upstream side of the dam.
6. Bow paddler climbs in, stern paddler steadies the boat.
7. Stern paddler climbs in, moves forward.
8. Both paddlers paddle upstream, stern paddler returns to his/her seat.

Keep in mind, a tandem boat with the bow or stern supported on a dam can be a little tippy. Keep a paddle in the water or on the river bed or dam as a brace when in the boat.

This may sound complicated, but I and a partner can usually clear a beaver dam in less than a minute.

The above process works best if:
You have boots, or sandals, or water shoes.
The dam is strong enough to stand on.
Boat is not too full of gear.
Boat is strong enough to walk in when not fully supported by water.

Solo boats and pack boats are a little more tricky.
Tandems have a distinct advantage.
This works great for two people, but I also do this solo (in a big old Grumman). I paddle from the stern, shift back as far as possible to lift the bow high, ram the bow up over the dam if possible, then walk to the bow. Sometimes I don't even have to get out of the boat!
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Old 08-30-2010, 04:28 PM   #12
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This works great for two people, but I also do this solo (in a big old Grumman). I paddle from the stern, shift back as far as possible to lift the bow high, ram the bow up over the dam if possible, then walk to the bow. Sometimes I don't even have to get out of the boat!
...one thing about a guy from NYC in a Grumman.....you can always hear him comin'.....it's very poetic...
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Old 08-30-2010, 04:55 PM   #13
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...one thing about a guy from NYC in a Grumman.....you can always hear him comin'.....it's very poetic...
It's a stealth bomber in my hands as various herons, deer, ducks and a moose will attest! Until I've got to drag it over a snag or beaver dam of course.
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Old 08-30-2010, 05:20 PM   #14
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I'm just glad I had my 18 year old OT Camper on this trip. I can't imagine dragging a nice carbon or Kevlar canoe over those dams, log jams and rocks.
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Old 08-30-2010, 05:32 PM   #15
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It's a stealth bomber in my hands as various herons, deer, ducks and a moose will attest! Until I've got to drag it over a snag or beaver dam of course.
Stealth bomber.....huh?....I'm just bustin'...I have this mental pic of boom....paddle....boom ...paddle....
I have a little cabin up north...the next guy down from me has got a Grumman...he keeps it right in his cabin.....when he gets there ....the first thing he does is take it out.....boom .....boom..wood & kevlar don't do that...I guess I'm spoiled.....all I can think about is those chains of boy scouts..in the good ol' summer time....God bless 'em, with those noisy water parades of aluminum canoes...boom.....paddle....gab-gab....boom paddle.....gab-gab.................somebody shoot me please.................
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Old 08-30-2010, 05:45 PM   #16
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Stealth bomber.....huh?....I'm just bustin'...I have this mental pic of boom....paddle....boom ...paddle....
I have a little cabin up north...the next guy down from me has got a Grumman...he keeps it right in his cabin.....when he gets there ....the first thing he does is take it out.....boom .....boom..wood & kevlar don't do that...I guess I'm spoiled.....all I can think about is those chains of boy scouts..in the good ol' summer time....God bless 'em, with those noisy water parades of aluminum canoes...boom.....paddle....gab-gab....boom paddle.....gab-gab.................somebody shoot me please.................
I'll admit the default for the boat is LOUD and one has to work to keep it quiet. I'm sure the boy scouts get a kick out of making noise in those things, and durability is probably the most important attribute.
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