Find Freshwater Mussels in Tennessee

Tennessee has many rivers and streams with freshwater mussels. They help keep water clean and feed other animals. You can find mussels in the Tennessee River, Clinch River, Cumberland River, Hatchie River, and Harpeth River.

Mussel Gathering Adventure

Want a fun outdoor adventure in Tennessee? Try gathering mussels! These shellfish live in rivers and streams. With the right tools and tips, you can collect mussels to eat. Get your gear and explore Tennessee's waters!


Learn About Mussels

Before gathering mussels, learn to identify them and how they live. Mussels have a special life cycle and need certain things to live. They stay at the bottom of rivers and streams and filter water for food and air. Some mussels need a certain fish to grow. Make sure not to gather protected or endangered mussels.


Mussel Collecting Tips

To gather mussels, you need a permit from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) or the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). It's against the law to collect mussels without a permit.

You can pick up mussels by hand or use a rake or fork to get them out of the sand or dirt. Be gentle so you don't hurt them. Always leave some mussels behind so they can make more.

Protect Mussel Beds

Mussel beds are places where lots of mussels live together. These beds are homes for many water animals. People can hurt mussel beds by digging, building, and polluting water.

Help protect mussel beds while gathering mussels:

  • Follow the rules for collecting mussels
  • Don't mess up the dirt or other places where mussels live
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