Beavers and lily pads make Bass Lake home
Many plants and animals seemed to enjoy the warmer weather
during the first full week of June.
They’re growing, blooming, eating and reproducing! Human visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway seemed to enjoy the sunshine, too. I’ve seen hundreds of hikers, riders and campers over just the past few days.
Many hikers and campers asked amazing questions, which I was glad to answer or find the answers to. Little did these people know that they were, themselves, acting as naturalists.
Naturalists simply observe the natural world and try to apply meaning to it. They do this by questioning the processes that they observe. Here I share two of my beginner naturalists’ questions:
I’ve been to Price Lake many times. I know there are beavers here because I see where they cut down trees, but have never actually seen a beaver. Why is this?
Hunter Van Lear, Boone
Great observations, Hunter! Beavers make their presence known in many ways. Toppled trees are indicators of beaver activity, as well as their dams and scent mounds. You can find these signs at Price Lake, Bass Lake and along the Boone Fork Trail.
Beavers are North America’s largest rodent, usually weighing around 60 pounds. They are vegetarians who snack daily on the tasty inner bark of their favorite trees. They are also naturally drawn to dam flowing water, which creates the ponds that beavers and many other animals call home.
So, why has Hunter never seen a beaver even though they are such big, hungry and busy creatures?
Beavers are crepuscular, which means that they are most active around dawn and dusk and do not hibernate. Hunter would have to be out at the beaver dam around 5 a.m. or 8 p.m. to catch a glance of a busy beaver.
With that said, it is wonderful to watch the beavers at work, and I would recommend Bass Lake in Blowing Rock as a great place to do it. Begin your walk as the sun sets and sit on the side of the trail near the beaver dam. If you’re quiet enough, you might just be lucky enough to spot one.
I know lily pads aren’t native to North Carolina. How do the lily pads at Bass Lake affect the native animals there?
Austin Boggs, Boone
Visitors to Blowing Rock’s beloved Bass Lake might have noticed a change in the lake within the past decade. The population of water lilies has exploded.
Moses Cone, the man behind the lake, is responsible for planting the first few lily pads. He was drawn by the lily’s beautiful white flowers, which float on Bass Lake’s surface amidst their bright green foliage.
But what happens when water lilies take over a third of the lake? The outcome, though not considered photogenic, is not at all a bad thing for native animal species.
Water lilies provide coverage and excellent habitat for many amphibians, largemouth bass and sunfish.
The lilies also provide home for many insects that live on the submerged part of the plant. The insects are a source of food for fish. Fishermen and women at Bass Lake have certainly taken advantage of this lily outcome.
Also, the lilies themselves are a food source for beaver and deer. The adored ducks and geese of Bass Lake eat the lilies’ seeds.
Ask Ranger Amy
If you have a question about the Blue Ridge Parkway or its flora and fauna, please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) All of your questions will be answered. Two will be featured next week. See you on the trails!
Amy Renfranz is an interpretive park guide on the Blue Ridge Parkway. She is a certified naturalist through the Yellowstone Institute and a certified environmental educator in the state of North Carolina.