Freshwater Mussels of the CT River
March 7, 2013
The following article by Meagan Racey, originally posted on a US Fish & Wildlife Service blog, details her kayak trip down the Connecticut River and examines the freshwater mussels therein:
The sky beamed blue above, and the sun shined down on me below as I sliced the clear water with my paddle—shwoosh down the right side of the kayak, and shwoosh down the left side. From the shoreline, a great blue heron watched me warily, and up ahead a bald eagle peered from the treetop. Minnows darted under the water and water bugs glided across the top.
It’s hard to beat a day on the water. My trip down a portion of New England’s longest river, the Connecticut River, started at Greenfield, Massachusetts, and amid all the beautiful details I mentioned above, one unmentioned characteristic struck me the most—the littering of freshwater mussels poking up from the bottom of the clear river.
More than ten types of freshwater mussels live in the Connecticut River, including the endangered dwarf wedgemussel. Like many others, I imagine, I had overlooked these special residents of the river. But what you won’t overlook is the overall beauty of a river that has freshwater mussels.
Mussels are our silent sentinels—the guards of our waters. They indicate healthy water systems, which means good resources for drinking water, fishing, waterfowl and other species, and for kayaking, of course. Not to mention, freshwater mussels have quite an intriguing reproductive cycle; they go “fishing” and tack onto fish for a nutritious ride. And they have, hands down, some of the most interesting names—from the endangered snuffbox and northern riffleshell to the rough rabbitsfoot and Appalachian monkeyface.
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