Nature's Amazing Water Filters

Freshwater mussels live quietly at the bottom of Illinois rivers — but they’re hiding a superpower! Mussels have an amazing ability to filter out chemicals and toxins. They’re also sensitive to water conditions. That makes them a good measure of a river’s health.

LCF’s work to improve river water quality will help restore nature’s own water filter system — the mighty mussel.

Each year, LCF conducts mussel surveys in the Sangamon River. Our local results go into a statewide database, helping track the health of mussels and rivers across Illinois.


Strengthening Mussels

As many as 80 mussel species once lived in our state’s rivers, supporting a major pearl-button industry.


But populations have dwindled. Today, mussels may be the most endangered group of animals in North America. 

On a hopeful note, parts of the Sangamon River are on the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory due to their great variety of aquatic life, especially freshwater mussels.

At LCF’s Sangamon River Corridor Reserve, recent surveys have found 17 mussel species, including the deertoe, fawnsfoot, mapleleaf, pimpleback, pistolgrip, threehorn wartyback, and Wabash pigtoe. 

LCF's Mussel and Fish Host Poster


Freshwater mussel larvae (called glochidia) hitchhike on the gills or fins of fish while they change into young mussels. To attract the right fish, some mussels grow their own fishing lures!


LCF's mussel host poster shows these host and hitchhiker pairings. Contact us about obtaining copies.

The Land Conservation Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to preserve and restore natural communities in East Central Illinois, to create interconnected corridors, to provide wildlife habitat, and connect people and nature for future generations.


Deanna Glosser, PhD, Executive Director

3413 Waterville Ct.   Champaign, IL 61822

217/607-8155 (office)   217/725-5886 (cell)

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