Fresh Water Mussels in Norris Lake & the Clinch River

The world is full of “coincidences”. Such is the case between a nature walk I had a few weeks ago at Norris Lake where the water had receded and a book I just started reading about Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project called “The Girls of Atomic City” — and they have to do with fresh water mussels.

On my walks, I frequently find broken or half shells that the birds have gotten to first. There are lots of birds, as evidenced by their footprints in the mud and droppingsIMG_3544. But this time, I found a tightly closed shell, before the birds did, that I was able to pry open with my fingers and see a live mussel inside.

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I love food, and immediately thought of a favorite restaurant that I used to frequent that served steamed mussels in a broth with crusty bread. But I’ve never harvested mussels before and one mussel does not a meal make… and I only found one.

Fast forward to now and the book about Oak Ridge National Labs.  I learned that the town of Clinton used to have a thriving fresh-water pearl industry, before Norris Dam was built. These pearls used to come from the fresh water mussels in the Clinch River.  I say “used to” because this industry died out after Norris Dam was built because the water that was released was too cold for the mussels to survive.

I did not even think to look for a pearl in my found little treasure.  But I will next time.

As an aside, click on the photos and use the magnifier feature to see all the tiny crustacean remains in the bird scat.  It appears to be their entire diet.

Life is an Adventure.

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