The work of beavers has put an earthen dam at risk of failure off Montana Highway 2 between Butte and Whitehall.
The U.S. Forest Service is in the process of drawing down the water at the dam to prevent dam failure. Beavers plugged up a pipe that allows water to flow past the dam and on downstream in North Fork Creek. The area is off Radar Creek Road.
Forest Road #9319 is also closed.
The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest closed Toll Mountain campground, which is just downstream of the dam, Friday to ensure the public’s safety.
Dave Sabo, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Butte district ranger, said the problem originally occurred in the spring. The Forest Service got the water down to a manageable level by early June, but the beavers got to work in the meantime.
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Sabo said there are seven homes in the area. The homeowners have all been notified, Sabo said.
He said the dam also acts as a road to a few of the homes. The Forest Service believes the dam was built in the 1800s to serve a small saw mill.
Erin Ryan, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest hydrologist, said that when the water is at its highest, the dam is about 7 feet high.
Sabo said the homeowners find the 2-acre pond the beavers built by plugging the pipe more aesthetically pleasing than the swampy area the draw-down creates.
He said the Forest Service cannot take on the liability to allow a pond to back up behind the earthen dam. But he said the homeowners are discussing trying to have the dam engineered themselves so they can get their lake back.