I'm just curious which animals would peel bark off a tree like this:
It's a riparian setting in the Mid Atlantic region. I was thinking maybe a beaver?
That was definitely a beaver. Nothing else has quite the chewing power of a beaver, for example accoring to Wikipedia, these trees were cut by beavers in a single night.
Based on the color of those chips, I would say that you were there less than a week if not sooner from when the beaver was chewing the tree down.
The reason that I don't think its a porcupine, is because of the riparian setting and because porcupines usually chew much higher up on a tree.
Fun fact, beaver's teeth never stop growing.