A Sight: Rudyard Kipling Watches Beaver Swimming Silently — 1889

A Beaver Lodge

With colorful canyons, mountains of glass and boiling geysers to hold their attention, few Yellowstone Park visitors spend time watching that lowly rodent, the beaver. But the famous British author Rudyard Kipling thought they were worth writing about after his visit there in 1889. Here’s his description.


The sun began to sink, and there was a taste of frost about, and we went swiftly from the forest into the open, dashed across a branch of the Firehole River and found a wood shanty, even rougher than the last, at which, after a forty-mile drive, we were to dine and sleep.

In the cool, crisp quiet of the evening I sought that river, and found a pile of newly gnawed sticks and twigs. The beaver works with the cold chisel, and a few clean strokes suffice to level a four-inch bole. Across the water on the far bank glimmered, with the ghastly white of peeled dead timber, the beaver-lodge—a mass of disheveled branches. The inhabitants had dammed the stream lower down and spread it into a nice little lake. The question was, would they come out for their walk before it got too dark to see.and there were rumors of bears and other cheerful monsters in the woods on the hill at the back of the building.

They came—blessings on their blunt muzzles, they came—as shadows come, drifting down the stream, stirring neither foot nor tail. There were three of them. One went down to investigate the state of the dam; the other two began to look for supper.

There is only one thing more startling than the noiselessness of a tiger in the jungle, and that is the noiselessness of a beaver in the water. The straining ear could catch no sound whatever till they began to eat the thick green river-scudge that they call beaver-grass.

I, bowed among the logs, held my breath and stared with all my eyes. They were not ten yards from me, and they would have eaten their dinner in peace so long as I had kept absolutely still.


— Excerpt from Rudyard Kipling, “The Yellowstone Park.” The Kipling Reader for the Upper Grades. D. Appleton and Company: New York, 1905. Pp. 141-148.

— Photo, Coppermine Photo Gallery.

— You also might enjoy “Rudyard Kipling Goes Fishing With Yankee Jim.”

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