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Saturday, August 4, 2018

You're invited: Join a mussel rescue party

Volunteers save mussels at Accotink Creek. [FACC]
By Tony Vellucci 

The Friends of Accotink Creek (FACC) invite you to join their party this summer – a mussel rescue party!

At one time, fresh water mussels are believed to have inhabited a number of streams in Fairfax County. Today, however, the only place Accotink watershed stream mussels survive is just south of the dam at Lake Accotink.

Fresh water mussels are not cute, warm or cuddly, but they do play an important role in lake and stream ecology – acting as water filtering and purification agents. And for that reason alone, they are worth saving and we should make every attempt to save as many as possible. 

FACC and Friends of Lake Accotink Park (FLAP) funded a fresh water mussel study three years ago to learn more about these amazing organisms that can live to be 80 years old. The study determined that a primary impediment to thriving populations is sediment caused by stormwater runoff. 

Nine Eastern Elliptio mussels found stranded on a single gravel bar. [FACC]
After major storms many mussels are picked up by the raging stormwater and deposited high on the stream banks. Unable to return to the stream bed on their own, they are easy prey for predators. FACC routinely sponsors mussel rescue parties after storms, where volunteers collect mussels on the banks of Accotink Creek and return them to the stream bed.

At a mussel rescue party on July 28, volunteers found a record-breaking 256 stranded mussels and put them back into the creek, FACC reports. Some of the mussels may have been in the summer sun a little too long, but most appeared to have a good chance of recovery.

The volunteers were too late to save many of them, as there were empty shells all over the banks that had been picked clean by raccoons or other foragers.

If you want to volunteer for a mussel rescue party, contact FCAC at

This is a great task for students who need to log in community service activities and want to do more than pick up trash. You will likely get wet and muddy, so dress accordingly.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to rescue them with my mouth and some drawn butter