Have you seen this tree on Grand Junction, Colorado's Audubon Trail? What happened to it?

Did this get hit by lightning? Not exactly. According to a rep with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, while not a lightning strike, Mother Nature did have a hand in the destruction of this tree.

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Grand Junction's Riverfront Trail

The Audubon Trail in Grand Junction, Colorado is a seven-mile stretch of paved paths perfect for walking, biking, rollerblading, or whatever suits your style. As stated on the Visit Grand Junction website, " Along this trail the user will see a variety of plant and small animals as well as different types of birds. For biking, this trail is ideal for beginners or family rides."

What Happened To This Tree?

I walk this trail several times a week, passing by this tree each time. This tree took on tremendous damage in a very short amount of time.

The tree can be found a few hundred feet east of the ranger station at the entrance of Connected Lakes. It's roughly 75 to 100 feet north of the waterway for the Redlands Canal.

Grand Junction Audubon Trail Tree Map
Canva / Google Maps / Waylon Jordan

To look at it, one could easily come to three conclusions:

  • It was struck by lightning... several times
  • Godzilla stepped on it
  • a beaver, one with an agenda, got ahold of it

The Answer From Colorado Parks and Wildlife

At times such as this, the proper thing to do is reach out to the authorities. A call was made to Colorado Parks and Wildlife and immediately followed up with an email including photos. A representative with Colorado Parks and Wildlife replied within the hour:

Thank you for providing the photos of the trees. Those are from a beaver. - Braxtin Purcell, NW Regional Administrative Assistant III, Northwest Region

Grand Junction Audubon Trail Tree 2
Waylon Jordan

Wildlife At Work

Digging a little deeper, it appears as though this is the work of a North American Beaver. While I've rarely seen one on the trail, I do occasionally hear one launching off the banks of the Redlands Canal.

According to Colorado Encyclopedia, "The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is native to Colorado, and its role as both an environmental engineer and a keystone species has profoundly impacted the state’s ecology and history. Although their populations today are low, beavers continue to shape Colorado’s environments."

Characteristics of a North American beaver include:

  • 40-50 pounds
  • 48 inches in length
  • waterproof fur
  • flat, scaly tails
Grand Junction Audubon Trail North American Beaver

Colorado Encyclopedia adds, "The most environmentally significant activity beavers do is create dams. They use their large teeth to cut down shrubs and trees, which they use as a building material."

What I Found Interesting

Walk this trail, and you'll spot dozens of trees along the banks which have been taken down by beavers. This particular tree, however, is nowhere near the waterway. For that matter, it's nowhere near the lakes. Put simply, it's in the middle of nowhere.

Since North American beavers form nuclear families, it may be possible this tree is the work of more than an individual. In any event, they get tons of kudos for completing a tremendous amount of work in a brief amount of time.

Spotted: Bighorn Sheep on the Colorado National Monument

WORTH THE TRIP: Hiking Liberty Cap Trail in Grand Junction

It was really simple to find as I put the location into GPS and it connects immediately, although there isn't a ton of parking so try to be respectful of others trying to use the trail.

During my hike, I decided to walk around and try to take lots of beautiful photos as I knew this would probably be my last hike for a while. Here are some of the shots I got this past weekend on my hike.

LOCAL HIKE: Grand Junction's Ribbon Trail Offers Views for Days

For those that want to see some great scenery but don't want to work for it, the Ribbon Trail is the perfect destination hike for non-hikers.

The Ribbon Trail Hike itself is about 7 miles in length and quite strenuous. But, the first part of the trail from the upper trailhead to Ribbon Rock is not difficult at all. The hike is about 1/4 mile and takes you to some pretty incredible scenery in western Colorado.

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