A guest article by Mike Settell
On June 26th, 2010, I inspected the South Fork of Mink Creek to document conditions of the Box Canyon road culvert that was being plugged by beaver. Like many roads throughout the west, the South Fork Road parallels the creek and so problems with the road-creek interface are, at best, managed. From its confluence with the West Fork of Mink Creek, the South Fork extends to its headwaters near the southern flank Scout Mountain in southwest Bannock County. In the spring of 2010, I had seen no less than 25 beaver dams as far as the headwaters. I was eager to see how the beaver were doing.
As I followed the South Fork upstream, I noticed that the dams I had seen the previous spring were failing, a sign that the beaver were no longer working in the area. As I rode towards the Box Canyon Crossing, I observed more and more abandoned dams and receding water levels. By the time I reached the end of the road, four out of five colonies were abandoned.
I continued riding through the canyon up to the gentle plateau that forms the upper South Fork drainage. It was here that I hoped to see again the massive beaver ponds and the expanded willow acreage that ten years earlier was little more than dead sticks surrounding a marginal trampled, eroded stream. Now, these colonies were also gone. What once was a stream with approximately 35 potential cutthroat rearing ponds is now a silty, slithering stream, losing velocity and flowing muddily towards the Portneuf River.