Mussel Monitoring in the Sangamon River – 8/29/2020

There aren’t many things more fun than spending a day on the water – except maybe a day IN the water.  On this lovely Saturday, I convinced Hogan to come with me to a mussel monitoring event in Illinois.  I warned Hogan that we would get wet and dirty, but he was still unprepared for what we had in store.

The river was only about a foot deep, so we could walk around just fine.  But to collect mussels, you have the feel around in the sediment.  I gladly dug in, but Hogan was a bit more timid.  I’m sure you are thinking, “Hogan? Timid? Around water?”  I get it.  But think about it.  In all of his posts about paddling, how often does he get wet?  On purpose?

So, we spent about an hour sitting on our backsides.  In a river.  Digging in the sediment.  With our hands.  We were trying to find what felt kinda like rocks, but weren’t rocks.  Hogan met with little success for the first 45 minutes.  He elected to pick up every rock within reach and make a pile of them. (Sorry, no photos of this part – phones were kept safely dry on the bank.)  Honestly, I was not meeting with much success for a while.  Then I moved to “the right spot.”  Suddenly, I was picking up mussel after mussel after mussel.  I convinced Hogan to come over by me and he gained a bit of enthusiasm when he was finding something.

When the time was up, we all (about 20 of us) brought our bags of mussels to a pair of tables and laid them out.  We spent about 15 minutes sorting them into the different species.  For most of them, it was more a matter of matching the ones in your bag to one of the 6 or 7 most common types based on color and shape.

When it was all said and done, we ended up collecting, identifying, and measuring over 750 mussels that belonged to 16 different species.  That is a lot of diversity in a fairly small stretch of river!

I’m not sure if I will be able to convince Hogan to do this again.  Now that he knows what he would be in for, I think he might join me.  He’d probably pick a different pair of shorts, though!