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Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

You may not actually see one, but their presence is everywhere, especially in their beautifully efficient waterfront homes, and in the “construction debris” they leave behind. You could even say that these highly skilled engineers who live within the confines of Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary actually run the place—with apologies to the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

We’re talking, of course, about the beavers who thrive in this 1,300-acre nature preserve just off of Routes 7 and 20 in Lenox, Mass. And while the nocturnal creatures aren’t likely to pop out of their lodges for a photo op while you and the kids are taking an afternoon hike around the pond, there’s still plenty to see, especially in the stick-and-mud houses that keep the critters cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And young children, especially, delight in searching for tree stumps with the telltale point that confirms that the little lumberjacks sawed off the wood the old-fashioned way—with their teeth.

Besides the (mostly) unseen beavers, this quiet little hikers’ paradise offers plenty to look at, from woodland creatures and many species of birds to an abundance of flowers, not to mention the varied terrain itself, from meadows to hardwood forests to the wetlands that beavers are so instrumental in preserving. And the hiking trails run from the family-friendly around-the-beaver-pond sort to more challenging forays up the mountainside.

Just north of the village of Lenox, or about five miles south of Park Square in Pittsfield, turn off of 7 and 20 onto West Dugway Road; the sanctuary is 1.6 miles ahead on the right. Call (413) 637-0320 for more info.

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