The Duck River winds 290 miles through Middle Tennessee and is one of the longest rivers that runs entirely within the state’s borders. It is considered one of the most bio-diverse rivers in the U.S. rich in fish and mussel diversity. It is also a source of drinking water for Middle Tennesseans.
The Nature Conservancy states that the Duck River contains more species of fish than all of the rivers of Europe combined and has more fish varieties per mile than any other river in North America. Overall the Duck River supports a remarkable diversity of freshwater animals in its waters, including 151 species of fish, 60 freshwater mussel species, and 22 species of aquatic snails. Among the rare species living in the Duck River are mussels such as the birdwing pearly mussel, and fish such as the barrens topminnow and the pygmy madtom. Smallmouth bass are also commonly found in the river. In addition, the river harbors a number of larger mammals, reptiles, and birds, including river otters, beavers, mink, hawks, osprey, and herons.
Freshwater mussels have disappeared across much of the United States. But the Duck River is one of a handful of rivers in Tennessee where they have survived and are still thriving. Because mussels are sensitive to pollution, their presence is a reliable indicator of water quality – for humans.
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