Category Archives: Educational

Southwest Iowa will be home to 14 new trumpeter swans on May 9 and 10


The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will release 14 trumpeter swans at three locations in southwest Iowa as part of the effort to create a self-sustaining population of swans south of Interstate 80. All releases will occur rain or shine.

  • Six swans will be released on the north side of Lake Icaria at the east boat ramp on May 9 at 9:30 a.m., in partnership with the Adams County Conservation Board.
  • Two swans will be released at Viking Lake near the restaurant/beach area on May 9 at 1 p.m.
  • Six swans will be released at Lake Anita on May 10 at 1:30 p.m., in partnership with the Cass County Conservation Board.

These releases are part of the Iowa DNR’s statewide effort to restore trumpeter swans to Iowa that began in 1993. Trumpeter swans were once common in Iowa, but were gone from the state by the late 1880s. By the early 1930s, only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states.

It takes six years, on average, before trumpeter swans successfully nest. Last year, Iowa was home to 54 pairs of nesting trumpeter swans; however, only two of those nesting pairs were south of I-80. Dave Hoffman, wildlife research technician with the Iowa DNR, said the goal is to raise that number to eight, which would likely create a self-sustaining population.

“We are hopeful to get them nesting here in a year or two,” Hoffman said. “We had swans displaying some territorial signs at Lake Icaria, which is encouraging.”

As the largest North American waterfowl, these all-white birds can weigh up to 32 pounds and have an 8-foot wingspan. The trumpeter swans being released are young and flightless and will imprint on the area where they learn to fly, returning each year as open water is available. The swans were donated to the project from zoos in Cleveland, Kansas City, Green Bay, Wis., Oklahoma City, Bronx, Anchorage, Alaska and Maryland.

Each event includes a swan and wetland presentation, an opportunity to touch and view the swans up close, and a photo opportunity with the kids. Staff from the Kansas City Zoo will be on hand offering educational activities, and filmmaker Steve Harryman may be at these releases collecting footage for an upcoming documentary “Return of the Trumpeter Swans, in partnership with the Trumpeter Swan Society.

For more information, contact David Hoffman at David.Hoffman@dnr.iowa.gov or 641-425-0737.

Explore Iowa’s Beautiful Trout Streams and Rivers

Explore some of the most beautiful trout streams in the Upper Midwest, here in Iowa. A true angler’s paradise, hundreds of miles of cold water trout streams meander through Northeast Iowa. Some streams are easily accessible in parks, and others are in wild and remote natural places. Catch wild and stocked Rainbow, Brown and Brook trout.

Plenty of opportunities await trout anglers in Iowa:
50 catchable-stocked rainbow and brook trout fisheries on publicly-accessible streams
9 special trout fisheries with restrictive regulations
17 community trout fisheries

Over 50 wild, self-sustaining trout fisheries throughout northeast Iowa
Schedule time during your next trip to northeast Iowa to visit one of Iowa’s three trout hatcheries – Manchester, Decorah, or Big Springs. The grounds to each facility are open to the public year round from sunrise to sunset.

Find your favorite trout stream and when it will be stocked with the Trout Stream Stocking Calendar at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Trout-Fishing or call 563-927-5736 for current trout stream or urban stocking information.

The past 20 years, northeast Iowa has seen a dramatic increase in the miles of stream that support populations of trout fully sustained through natural reproduction. Over 75 streams now have some level of natural reproduction and provide an excellent opportunity for anglers to pursue wild trout. These increases occurred as watersheds were improved, in-stream habitat was installed, improved trout genetics were used, and Iowa had an extended period of above average annual rainfall.

Iowa’s put-and-grow streams are stocked with fingerling brown trout. These streams are entirely on private property – you need permission from the landowner to fish them. Fingerling trout are also stocked into streams open to public fishing.

Brook Trout from South Pine Creek are the only know population of native Iowa Brook Trout. In 1995, Iowa DNR staff started to spawn trout from South Pine Creek to restore populations in other NE Iowa cold water streams.

Adult Brown Trout from French Creek are spawned and their offspring stocked as fingerlings into cold water streams with suitable water temperatures and habitat conditions. Several populations of naturally reproducing Brown Trout have been established in northeast Iowa streams using this stocking approach.

Fisheries staff play an active role in trout stream projects to improve and maintain quality water and habitat that benefit both trout and trout anglers. They have worked with 18 landowners to protect over 10 miles of streams in Northeast Iowa with Angler Conservation Easements.

Successful water quality improvement projects are led by groups and communities that partner with the DNR to create and implement long-term plans to improve the land and water. Using conservation practices on the land upstream is key to help stop sediment, nutrients and bacteria from entering into the stream.

Several projects are currently ongoing in Northeast Iowa. The longest running project was implemented in 2000 on the Upper Iowa River. It continues to secure funding for additional tributaries within its watershed and on the immediate corridor.

Watershed improvement projects have helped many trout streams by changing the way water flows through them. Bank stabilization projects occur on public and private owned properties. Cut banks are stabilized by bank shaping, armoring with rock, seeding, willow stake planting and cedar tree or root-wad revetments.

Landowners who want to improve the habitat in their trout streams should contact the Decorah or Manchester fish management biologist for help with project plans and potential funding sources.

Iowa residents and nonresidents who are required to have a fishing license must pay the Trout Fee to fish for or possess trout. Exception: Children under 16 may possess or fish for trout without having paid the Trout Fee if they fish with a properly licensed adult who has paid the Trout Fee and together they limit their catch to the one person daily limit of five (5) trout. Children under 16 can buy their own trout privilege, which allows them to fish without a properly licensed adult and keep their own daily limit (5).

Length Limits: None, except a 14-inch minimum length limit applies to all trout in Spring Branch Creek (Delaware Co.), from the spring source to County Hwy. D5X as posted, and on brown trout only in portions of Bloody Run Creek (Clayton Co.) where posted.

Daily Bag & Possession: All waters – Combined daily of 5 and possession of 10.

Annual Fishing License*
Resident: $22
Nonresident: $48

Trout Fee
Resident: $14.50
Nonresident: $17.50

Info and photo credits to Iowa DNR

For more info and trout stream locations, go to https://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Where-to-Fish/Trout-Streams

Full Moon Paddling Adventures: “How To” Considerations

Full moon paddling is a fun and surreal experience.  If you are observant, watching the day critters go to bed and the night time critters take over, is part of the fun and excitement of paddling after dark. There is always a lot of beaver activity after sunset that is serendipitous to happen upon.

Finding a small lake to get started building confidence in night time paddling is a great idea for a first time event. If it is a State or County Park, finding out what time the park closes is one step in the preparations. Find out the Sunset and Moon rise times. The IWTA  Newsletter provides the times each newsletter or you can Google it.

Here is a planning list of considerations: 
 
  • Paddle with a buddy or group for safety
  • Dress for cooler night time temps
  • Avoid areas that have snags. Scout out the lake in advance.
  • Wear a head lamp plus pack a spare and/or batteries.
  • Whistles are a great safety accessory for attendees. Discuss signals in advance. S-O-S is typically three quick blasts.
  • Wear and securely zip your PFD
  • Paddle to the furthest eastern section of the lake for the closest view of the moon as it rises. It can take 30 minutes before you see the moon rise over the horizon. Be patient. If it is a cloudy night, you may not see the moon at all. Find out in advance if it will be a cloudy night. It gets very dark on the lake if the moon is not visible. Be prepared with extra lighting.   Be prepared for vessel reloading after dark. A lantern stored in your vehicle works great for the extra lighting needed to make the job easier.

Make an adventure out of it. Enjoy the night sky and full moon over a campfire with friends.  After you exit the water, go to the fire pit you pre-scouted for a campfire, post paddling. Supplies needed can include glow-sticks, local firewood, lighter and lawn chairs.

Food could be as simple as snacks, s’mores, marshmallows or hot dogs. Another option for a cooler evening; bring and warm chili over the fire. If you have unlimited time, a dutch oven inspired meal or dessert would provide a great late night activity.

Have fun!  Let me know how it turns out at iowawta@gmail.com.

 

Stay Safe This Paddling Season

As Iowans start to thaw out from a brutal winter, paddlers and other boaters are itching to hit the water.  While some river levels have dropped, others remain high and unsafe.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends that paddlers wait for warmer weather to let the water temperatures rise slowly. It could be several weeks before water temperatures are ideal and safe.

“Regardless of how warm the air may feel in first weeks of spring, the water is still dangerously cold and can be deadly to boaters,” said Todd Robertson, Iowa DNR River Programs Water Trails coordinator.  “Cold water shock and hypothermia can set in fast if you are not dressed for cold water immersion. “

After snowmelt and heavy rains, water levels can rise quickly and produce strong and fast current. “Strainers” are numerous on most rivers, especially after high water events. A “strainer” can be a pile of tree limbs and debris, usually found on the outside of river bends where they continue to collect and pile up. The river’s current can suck you under a deadly “strainer” and hold you underwater with little chance of escape.

Review these simple safety tips before you head out on the water.

  • Check your canoe or kayak for any needed repairs or maintenance after being stored for several months. Look for holes and leaks, make sure all hatch lids fit snug and securely and check your paddle blades for signs of cracking or splitting.
  • Dust off your life jacket and make sure all buckles and zippers work properly and look for holes and tears. Replace the life jacket if it has damage that cannot be repaired. Wear a life jacket at all times while on the water, regardless of your swimming ability. “We encourage all boaters to wear their lifejackets and not just store them on board. When you need it, it won’t be there,” said Robertson. “Put the lifejacket on, if not for you, for the ones you love.”
  • If paddling in colder conditions, wear a wetsuit or dry suit, along with layers, to help avoid hypothermia or cold water shock. Do not wear cotton. Dress for water immersion, not the air temperature. You can adjust your clothing needs as the water heats up over the next several weeks.
  • Always bring along a dry bag with a set of extra clothes you can change into if you get wet, a first-aid kit and a protected cell phone or weather radio. Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Let a friend or loved one know where you are going and when you are expected to return. It will be easier to find you if you need help.

Explore the Iowa DNR’s interactive paddling map at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Where-to-Paddle to help you plan your first paddling trip this year.

Explore Iowa Rivers and Plan Trips from your Desktop

 

The Iowa DNR has an active and ready for use interactive paddling map that helps with trip planning, getting directions, and just exploring rivers from your desktop. Go to https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Where-to-Paddle to view it. You can also download a PDF that offers detailed instructions on how to use the map at this same page.

Last year a number of bridge construction projects located on popular stretches of river created barriers to navigation. Projects, to name a few, were reported at North Trailhead Access on the West Fork of the Des Moines River, just downstream of Bever’s Bridge Access on the Boone River, and at I-35 on the South Skunk River. These projects employ coffer dams that behave no differently from a typical low-head dam so it became critical to get the word out. A one-time press release just wasn’t enough, as some of these projects are under construction throughout the paddling season.

The River Programs utilized ESRI’s ArcGIS Online tools and functionality to deploy an online interactive map to display river data so it could be used in relation to these temporary hazards. While some data have discrepancies, the team continues to improve data quality and add more functionality to the map. It’s a work in progress, but offers a lot of information to assist paddlers in trip planning or exploring Iowa’s rivers.

All features of the map are clickable, providing more information. You can click on river or portage lines to get distances, or click on access symbols to find out maximum slope or the number of parking spaces. You can also change the map under the data (basemap) from a topo map to aerial photo coverage-there are more than six different maps to choose from. Lastly, you can get street directions between two or more points, which makes it easy to determine your shuttle route.

There is more to come. As we improve the quality of the data with the help of field workers and volunteers, we will also add more functionality, like the ability to print maps and add stream gauge information. If you’d like to assist the DNR in making our data more accurate and useful, please contact:John Wenck, DNR Water Trails Coordinator at john.wenck@dnr.iowa.gov  or 515-725-8465.

Monthly Feature: Species 101: American White Pelican

Photo by Pam Wolter 
Sweet Marsh, Bremer County

 

The American White Pelican can be seen this spring in fresh water lakes and marshes across Iowa and North America on their way to their summer grounds up north. They have the second largest wingspan of  North American birds with a span of nine foot, only behind the California Condor in size. They can weigh up to 30 pounds with 11 -20 an average.  They are bright white except for blacks edges on their wing ends. They eat around four pounds of fish and crayfish daily by fishing for it as the fish swim by. They are unlike the Brown Pelican who dives for their dinner.

The spring migration to the breeding grounds occurs in March and April. During spring breeding both male and females develop a small horn on their top beak that later falls off after breeding and egg laying.

Nesting begins early April through early June. After one week of courtship and egg laying, the male assists the female with incubating the nest of 2 to 3 eggs with 6 the maximum laid. They incubate for a period of one month. The juveniles leave the parents care around three weeks after learning to fly. The Pelicans leave for their winter grounds along the Mississippi River (south of Saint Louis), Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastal lakes in September and October.

Currently the North American Pelican has a stable population. However, due to human impact, they suffer habitat loss, nest abandonment, fishing gear entanglements, poaching and boating disturbances.

Credits to and for additional detailed info, click onto this link.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_white_pelican

Monthly Feature: Get Acquainted with a Water Trail This Month: Wapsipinicon River Water Trail: Buchanan County

 

The Wapsipinicon River has a romantic past as the local Wapsi Folklore has several stories about how the Wapsipinicon got its name. A common story has the young Indian maiden named Wapsi and the son of an Indian chief named Pinicon canoeing on the river on the eve of their wedding day. The jealous Fleat Foot sneaks along the shoreline, and shoots Pinicon through the heart. As Wapsi jumps to the aid of Pinicon, the canoe overturns, and the two lovers drown in the swift current. To commemorate the sad event, the Indians combined the names and called the river Wapsipinicon.*

Classified: a navigable “non-meandered” stream. That means that the State of Iowa owns the water flowing through it, but not the land adjacent to it or under it. Except at access sites and public areas marked on the map, the land adjacent to and underneath the river is private. Please respect it and do not trespass.*

Access Points: 11 access points with 40 total miles of river corridor

Skills Needed: Beginner and intermediate, section dependent, check map at
https://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking/Water-Trail-Maps-Brochures

River drop: < 2 feet

Features: quality backwaters, wetlands, woodland habitat, scenic forests, oxbows, backwater sloughs, 10-80′ limestone bluffs, numerous sandbars

Possible wildlife views of: Beaver, muskrat, river otter, painted, soft-shell and snapping turtles, 15 species of mussels

Birding: Designated Bird Conservation Area (2007) due to extensive diversity of bird species

Fish: One of the best fishing rivers in the state. Species found: northern pike, channel catfish, crappies, bluegill, smallmouth bass, walleye

Tree species: Silver Maple, Oaks, Willows

* Credits: Excerpts taken from the Iowa DNR Water Trail brochure: Wapsipinicon, Buchanan County

To learn more specific information, connect to these links.
http://iowawatertrails.org

Brochures and maps:
Can be downloaded and paper copies can be picked up at assorted Conservation offices and Nature Centers. Go to https://www.iowadnr.gov/ for online viewing.

A good way to plan your trip is by using the IDNR Interactive Mapping Services resource. Go to the IMS Guide for instructions on how to use the Interactive Mapping Services, or access the IMS directly by going to Recreation Map at https://www.iowadnr.gov/or at
http://iowawatertrails.org/?p=2864

River Reading: Hazards and Obstacles: What to do?

 

Photo: Maquoketa River Water Trail: Whitewater feature

There are many hazards and obstacles in the rivers we paddle and it is essential you become proficient in your river reading skills if you plan to spend time on the water. Striving to be a learner will help keep you and others safe. Here are a few of the hazards and obstacles you may encounter on a typical river trip.

Obstacles/Hazards:

Low-head dam:
You can be trapped in a hydraulic and unable to escape. If trapped, try to dive below the surface when the downstream current is flowing beneath the reversal. These low head dam hydraulics are called “drowning machines”. ALWAYS portage around them. When planning a trip, know what hazard features exist on the stretch you paddle.

High water:
High water can exist when a river narrows or when recent rain has increased the current flow and depth. Consider these conditions before making the decision to paddle as an individual, even if the trip leader decides to paddle under these conditions. YOU are responsible for your own decision to make the trip. Knowing what is happening up or down stream can also be important.

Strainer:
Anything that blocks passage, but allows water to flow through. These items can be brush or fallen trees, bridge pilings, or undercut rocks. They can allow the river current to sweep through and can cause capsize and/or pinning or can hold you under the water trapping you. Avoid these obstacles and be able to know and have the paddle skills to avoid these. Allow enough space to pass by the obstacle safely as the hydraulic may pull you in closer.

Sweeper:
branches hanging low over or into water that can sweep a paddler from the boat. Avoid these when paddling and refrain from reaching out to grab them when passing by.

Broaching/Pinning: When a boat is pushed sideways against a rock, bridge structure, or other hazard by a strong current. It may collapse and wrap around you and trap you inside your boat.This is especially true for kayaks. To avoid pinning, it is best to throw your weight downstream towards the rock or hazard.This may allow the current to slide underneath your boat hull. “Love and lean” toward the obstacle, typically, that is facing downstream. It allows water under your vessel to help dislodge it.

If you capsize:

Try to hold onto your boat if possible by keeping your boat in front of you, (heading down river). Never allow the boat behind you or the weight and current pushing on you can cause safety issues such as pinning, foot entrapment, broken bones, etc.
If you can not hold onto your boat, LET GO!

Do NOT ever try to stand up in fast moving current. Stay floating on your back with your feet held high and pointed downstream and try to navigate to shore. You may need to swim at times to avoid obstacles.If you try to stand, it is possible for your foot to become trapped in an underwater obstacle causing a pinning hazard that can result in drowning. Only stand up in moving water if it is shallow (less than knee deep) or in “slow” moving water.
Other paddlers should try to help get your boat and gear for you.
Bilge or drain the water from your vessel.
Change clothes from your dry bag supplies.

Learn rescue and other life saving techniques:

Learn self rescue and two person rescue techniques.
Learn how to use a “paddle float” and bring it on trips
Learn how to throw a “throw bag”, then bring it on paddle trips. It could save a life.
Take a class, attend a pool session.
Watching YouTube rescue technique videos can help increase skill level.
Learn to be a competent swimmer.
Take a CPR and first aid class.

When helping another paddler, help in this priority order:

Help paddler first.
Locate paddle.
Try to catch boat floating downstream, or pull to shore if possible and remove water by bilge pumping out or turning upside down over your kayak or on shore.
Locating lost gear is last priority.

Please note: the information, terms, and misc information was sourced through assorted publications, various online sites, assorted DNR brochures, “Paddling Iowa” by Nate Hoogeveen, www.paddling.com, and extensive readings.

Paddling Verbiage

Kayak and Paddle Terms: 

Stern: the back portion of the boat
Bow: the front of the boat
Cockpit: the opening where you sit
Deck: top of the boat
Foot braces: pedals or ridges feet rest on
Blade: the flat section of the paddle
Tip: the end of your paddle
Shaft: the section between the blades of your paddle
Powerface: the side of the blade catching the water on your paddle
Backface: side opposite the powerface

Safety Gear:

PFD: personal flotation device (lifejacket): is a piece of equipment designed to assist a wearer to keep afloat in water. It is required by law to be in your boat.
Paddle float: a paddle float may be used for re-entry into a kayak after a capsize in open water.
Throw bag: a throw bag or throw line is a rescue device with a length of rope stuffed loosely into a bag so it can come out through the top when the bag is thrown to a swimmer. A throw bag is standard rescue equipment for kayaking and other outdoor river recreational activities.
Bilge Pump: a pump to remove water out of a vessel
Whistle: attach it to your PFD. One blast is for attention; three blasts is “help.” (SOS)
Helmet: good for use when play boating or surfing waves or when flipping is possible
Knife: for use during river paddling where the danger of entanglement can be very real, it makes sense to carry a sheath knife on your PFD.
Tow rope: tow system is great to have when boating with kids or inexperienced paddlers who may become fatigued during long paddles.

River Features:

Eddyline– boundary between the circular eddy and the downward current flow.
Eddy: water rushing around obstacles, circulating downstream, towards shore in a reverse current. Current flows to fill void created by flow of water. It can be a good location to get out of the rivers current to take a break or to wait for others.
Ledge drop: any drop-off where the depth of the bottom goes from shallow to deep in a short distance. It can be caused from a former dam site.
Volume: the volume of a river is measured in cubic feet per second (cfs). Cfs is determined by calculating the number of cubic feet of water that passes a single point on a river over the course of a second.
Pillow: pillows are created when water hits a rock head on and folds back on itself creating a cushion like bumper against the face of the rock wall.
Riffle: the riffles of rivers tend to be where water is shallow and the current is strong. A riffle is a rocky, shallow area in a stream where water cascading over rocks creates a noticeable surface disturbance.To identify a riffle, look for a choppy surface or whitewater spilling over shallow rocks into deeper water.
Friendly V: a V pattern in the river that points away from you. It is a good path to take.
Unfriendly V: a V pattern that points toward you warns of an obstruction, avoid this.
Gradient: the steepness of the river bed, expressed in feet per mile.
if less than 2 feet: slow river, few riffles ( can paddle 3 miles per hour)
over 5 feet, expect fast water and riffles

Please note: the information, terms, and misc information was sourced through assorted publications, various online sites, assorted DNR brochures,”Paddling Iowa” by Nate Hoogeveen, www.paddling.com, and extensive readings.

Forgotten Endangered Species: Freshwater Mussels

Photo courtesy of Cedar Valley Paddlers Club

Article by Alexandria Vollman. Originally published on ModernConservationist.com.
Reprinted with permission.

The phrase “endangered species” elicits many images: fluffy grizzly bears, majestic gray wolves, stealthy panthers, lovable manatees. But many of the 1,467 current endangered or threatened species on the endangered species list (ESL) are unfamiliar to the average American.
In a 2018 survey conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the majority of respondents said they believed there were approximately 100 species on the ESL. Young people were even more off, with most putting the number at 80.
Out of sight and mind, the other 1,300-plus animals on the ESL garner less public support and thus fewer funds for their recovery. Yet these less flashy, cuddly and majestic creatures – like all flora and fauna – play a critical role in the ecosystems they are a part of and are deserving of the time, energy and money necessary for them to once again thrive.
Freshwater mussels, for instance.
With nearly 300 subspecies in North America, mussels make up an important component of the biodiversity of America’s rivers and streams.

Their Contributions:

Although North America has the largest number of species of freshwater mussels – or clams – in the world, approximately 72 percent of those are endangered, threatened or designated as a special concern by the states in which they are located. The majority are found in the Midwest, where more than half of the region’s 78 species are classified as such. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), “No other group of animals in the Midwest is so gravely imperiled.”
Compared to 16.5 percent of mammalian and 14.6 percent of bird species, 70 percent of mussels in North America are extinct or imperiled, according to The Nature Conservancy. This is particularly alarming as they are such hardy creatures capable of surviving harsh conditions.
Because they act as a purification system, filtering water for food, mussels are vulnerable to water pollution – from herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, mining waste and residential and livestock sewage. Although they can close their shells for short periods of time to avoid toxins, long-term exposure is often what kills them.

“The fact that so many mussels are imperiled in the Midwest shows that there have been significant, long-term changes to our lakes and waterways,” the FWS website reads. “And those changes have been so dramatic that these aquatic animals have trouble surviving.”
The fact that so many mussels are imperiled in the Midwest shows that there have been significant, long-term changes to our lakes and waterways.
Easy to overlook, mussels line the bottom of rivers, streams or lakes in large groups called “beds,” covering as much as several acres. Beyond purifying bodies of water, they act as a food source for a variety of animals, including otters, egrets, herons and raccoons.

Their Demise:

In addition to the conditions caused by pollution – sedimented, muddy and contaminated river bottoms – many elements have contributed to the demise of mussel species, with dams being another leading cause.
Because of the way in which mussels reproduce – larvae attach to the gills or fins of certain fish, where they remain for several weeks as they transform into juvenile mussels before detaching – dams have been a large impediment to their existence. Present on most large waterways, dams limit fish movement and thus the ability of mussels to reproduce. They also affect the water flow, harming some subspecies that are unable to survive in slower-moving or lower-water conditions.

Non-native, invasive species are another threat to freshwater mussels. The invader currently wreaking havoc on native species is the zebra mussel, which is believed to have been introduced in the Great Lakes by large European ships. By attaching to boats, the zebra mussel has spread to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

“They increase in numbers faster than non-native mussels and attach to almost any hard surface, including native mussels,” the FWS website reads. “They reproduce so fast and in such abundance that the native mussels’ movement, feeding, and reproductive behaviors are stifled.”
Although they may not be as endearing as other endangered species, mussels contribute in considerable ways to our aquatic ecosystems, and their presence is indicative of healthy water – good for both humans and wildlife. And while the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts have done much to aid in the recovery of mussels, much work remains to ensure they will thrive again one day.