Monday, March 21, 2011

Beaver Dam Creek

This weekend we had fantastic weather and decided to take advantage of it and go for a hike. We are in the prime area for hiking. We are centrally located to the New River Trail, the Blue Ridge parkway and the Appalachian trail. We also have many other local places to hike like Buffalo Mountain, Rock Castle Gorge and the Cascades. This weekend we were looking for something different though and decided to check out Beaver Dam Creek trail. It is a short trail but it's quite close.

i brought Sequoia to this trail many years ago, when he was only a toddler. We didn't get very far down the trail, because it was really hot that day and had to carry him. i started on the lower parking lot, and had to walk behind a factory, across a police shooting range and along an area of barbed wire and electric fencing before even getting to an area that looked like a nature trail. When i finally got to the trail head, there was this warning sign and another one for bears. i was hiking alone with my toddler, whom had to be carried and no cell phone.
So needless to say i did not really enjoy my hike that day.

We decided to try it again, starting at the other end of the trail and give it another shot.

i'm so glad we did. The Beaver Dam Creek trail is part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail system on the Blue Ridge Highlands Loop. It is only about 1 mile long, and follows the Beaver Dam Creek through the woods and along open fields. When we first entered the trail i spotted Skunk cabbage coming up everywhere!

As we walked the creek was on our left, and their was a beautiful field with horses in it on the right. Almost as soon as we entered the trail we saw a huge wild turkey running across the field. It was too quick for me to get it's picture, but it was definitely a Tom, with it's huge tail feathers dragging behind it. Very cool to see.

Less than 1/4 mile along the trail and we happen upon a huge puddle filled with tadpoles and frog spawn! i knew we would have to bring some of these home with us if we could find a cup or something to keep them in. We love to raise tadpoles and release the frogs after they've matured. The frog eggs were protected in a little bubbles of slimes. It was really a cool sight to see. There were many tadpoles that had already hatched, and many still in the eggs. It was neat to see them in the different stages of development.

Just a little farther up the trail we spotted more egg masses. These look quite different from the frog spawn. i know it's tough to see in the picture, but those cloudy spots are masses of eggs all enclosed in one large slime mass and connected to a plant. They are not separate bubbles like the frog eggs. In the center of this puddle, i saw something spotted and though it was probably the mother. We used a stick to try to get it to move so we could get a better look at it. Unfortunately it turned out to be dead, but it is a Spotted Salamander and i'm guess that is what the eggs belong to.

Sage found this interesting looking fungus. There were several of them growing together in a patch. This is a Myriostoma fungi, also called an Earthstar.

The creek was beautiful, and the kids had fun climbing the rocks and skipping stones in the creek.

Can you see the debris on top of the bridge? That is from flooding that happened in this area. Many of the bridges were covered in leaves, mud and garbage and other showed quite a bit of damage from recent flooding. On of the bridges we crossed had the metal railing completely bent and another had to have the rock at the base repaired where the bridge had literally been ripped away.

The creek was really very peaceful and the trail although short made for a very nice walk. We could hear spring peepers and several different birds calling although we didn't see them. i look forward to coming back later in the spring when the wildflowers begin to bloom.

The recent flooding left no shortage of garbage along the trail. So i was able to find a cup to scoop up a bit of salamander and frog spawn to raise/observe at home. While reading online i found that if the egg masses look cloudy they were probably exposed to cold temperatures and probably will not hatch. We also found a old paint can that had been washed up and used it to bring home a small sample of frog spawn and a few live tadpoles as well. i transferred the frog egg mass into a large pickle jar and the frog eggs have already begun to hatch! Perhaps from the heat of our house. i've transferred them into a large pickle jar for now, and will have to get my aquarium set up for them. i would love to move them into our Frog Bog with our Bull frog tadpole, but he would just devour them up.

i'll be posting pictures of our tadpoles/frog development and hopefully of the salamanders too. We have never tried raising salamanders before, so i'm doing my research now.

We really enjoyed our nature walk at Beaver Dam creek, and am looking forward to exploring more of the trails along the Blue Ridge Highlands Loop. We have hiked several of them, but there is a still a few that we have not yet explored.


  1. So inspiring Tree! I'm hoping to feel well enough to take the kids down to one of our local ponds in a bit and look for tadpole eggs...

  2. What a great adventure! My daughter and I went on a hike to see skunk cabbage and we encountered a snake and other amazing things! The best learning experience are outdoors!