Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the year 1852 / by Randolph B. Marcy ; assisted by George B. McClellan. Page: 50 of 368
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sufficient in the natural history of the beaver to excite our wonder and
admiration. For instance, at this place, upon an examination of the
dam they have constructed, I was both astonished and delighted at the
wonderful sagacity, skill, and perseverance which they have displayed.
In the selection of a suitable sight, and in the erection of the structure,
they appear to have been guided by something more than mere animal
instinct, and have exhibited as correct a knowledge of hydrostatics, and
the action of forces resulting from currents of water, as the 'most scientific
millwright would have done. Having chosen a spot where the
banks on each side of the creek were narrow and sufficiently high to
raise a head of about five feet, they selected two cotton-wood trees about
fifteen inches in diameter, situated above this point, and having an inelination
towards the stream: these they cut down with their teeth, (as
the marks upon the stumps plainly showed,) and, floating them down to
the position chosen for the dam, they were placed across the stream
with an inclination downward, uniting in the centre. This formed the
foundation upon which the superstructure of brush and earth was placed,
in precisely the same manner as a brush dam is made by our millwrights,
with the bushes and earth alternating and packed closely, the
butts in all cases turned down the stream. After this is raised to a
sufficient height, the top is covered with earth, except in the centre,
where there is a sluice or waste-wier, which lets off the superfluous water
when it rises so high as to endanger the structure. In examining the
results of the labors of these ingenious quadrupeds, it occurred to me
that the plan of erecting our brush dams must have been originally
suggested from witnessing those of the beavers, as they are very similar.
I watched for some time upon the banks of the pond, but could see
none of the animals. I presume they think we make too much noise
in our camp to suit them, and deem it most prudent to remain concealed
in their sub-marine houses.
I observed one place above the pond where they had commenced
another dam, and had progressed so far as to cut down two trees on
opposite sides of the creek; but as they did not fall in the right direction
to suit their purposes, the work was abandoned. As the course of Sweetwater
creek turns too much to the north above here, we shall leave it;
and it is with much regret that we are obliged to do so, as it has
afforded us the best of spring water, with good grass and wood, for five
June 13.-Leaving the command this morning encamped upon
Sweet-water creek, I made a trip to Red river, which is about six miles
in a southwest direction; it was one hundred yards wide where we
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Marcy, Randolph Barnes. Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the year 1852 / by Randolph B. Marcy ; assisted by George B. McClellan., book, 1854; Washington, DC. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6105/m1/50/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .