The creek, with the unglamorous name of Shrimpton, is a defining characteristic of Monkey Valley. It is fed by snow melt from the northern end of the Cascade Mountain range, as well as icy cold underground springs. In the eight years since I have owned this land, and the beavers have been allowed to do their work without interruption, the shape of the creek and the valley bottom have changed a lot.
(Shrimpton Creek shows up on Google! And there is Merritt, BC—the closest city to Monkey Valley Retreat Center.)
The beavers have dammed the creek in strategic places, and dug hundreds of meters of new channels. As the channels bring water to new patches of land, willows spring up where the tall grasses used to grow. The valley bottom, formerly a large grassy meadow, is slowly filling up with willows and other bushes. The willows draw the moose, and I once was lucky enough to see a pair of them galloping down the middle of the meadow, an amazing demonstration of vital aliveness and freedom. I’ve also seen a mother moose and her calf grazing at the northern end, moving in and out of view as they nibbled the branches.
The willows and the sheltered valley bottom—inaccessible because arms of the creek form a natural barrier protecting the giant grassy meadow—are also home to an abundance of birds who like to nest in the tall grasses. And many animals visit this land, pausing on their travels to drink at the creek. Any muddy place at creek edge shows signs of their passing. I have seen tracks of bear, deer, moose, cow (!), beaver, bobcat, and otter. The rare visits from river otters are especially delightful, but I’ll save that for another day. The creek is also home to mink (who become ermine in their winter coats), and many other small mammals who like to live near running water.
When I first moved here there were two places to cross the creek: a shallow ford at the north end of the valley, with a wood-log fence railing beside it; and a set of planks near the south end, which a previous owner had placed there to form a bridge. One summer I placed rocks in the shallow ford, creating another way to get across, but the creek level often rises above the rocks. One spring the high water, combined with the beaver’s creek-widening activities, carried the planks away. There is still a series of wood fences at the southern-most end of the property that can be climbed on to cross the creek, which has two branches there. When the fence at the northern end fell down, I used to cross near the ford on a fallen log. But the creek level has risen above that log now. It is amazing how the land keeps changing! And like explorers who have sought short-cuts throughout the ages, I have always wanted to find a way to cross the valley straight to the house, which is about one-third of the way from the north end, rather than having to walk all the way to the ford and then double back.