Freshwater mussels are an amazing group of animals that can be found in our lakes, rivers, and streams. Mussels clean our water and collect food for the bugs that feed our fish, all while living almost unseen for anywhere from 20 to more than 100 years! Our native freshwater mussels (not to be confused with the kind you eat or the invasive zebra mussels) are creatures the size of your hand that burrow into river bottoms using a "foot," never seeing any of the other animals they help or the beautiful places they live because they have no eyes! They are found in large numbers (1,000s to 10,000s!) called mussel beds and improve the quality of freshwater habitats. However, they are also incredibly sensitive to human activities. You might be surprised to learn that mussels can be harmed by restoration activities- unless we include them in our restoration plans. Activities like temporary dewatering, removal or placement of structures, and filling or removing sediment can all harm mussel beds. There are ways to protect these amazing creatures and still restore or enhance our rivers and lakes.
Photo by Akimi King/USFWS