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Timeline of Historic Mussel Events

1837 Congress authorizes the US Army Corps of Engineers to develop plans to improve Upper Mississippi River navigation
1857-80 Railroad network established along the Upper Mississippi River basin
1858 First rail line to La Crosse, Wisconsin
1870 Mississippi River heavily traveled by steamboats
1875 Logging industry begins
1875-85 Dumping of sawdust and wood waste creates major concern in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota
1878 4.5-foot channel project
1889 First big pearl strike in Mississippi River Valley
1890 Passenger pigeon virtually eliminated from Upper Mississippi River
1891 Beginning of pearl button industry
1897 Crow foot drag bar (brail) invented; over 300 hundred clammers between Burlington and Clinton, Iowa 
1898-16 Boom years of mussel harvest and button industry
1899 Congress passes Rivers & Harbors Act (authority of Corps of Engineers to regulate the dumping of pollutants in navigable streams)
1900-20 Growing awareness of negative effects of direct discharge of municipal and industrial waste directly into the Upper Mississippi River
1901 Button making automated
1907 6-foot channel project
1907-10 Investigation of artificial propagation of mussels
1914 Hydroelectric dam built blocking the migration of skipjack, which were essential to the development of mussel glochidia
1915 Clamming with dredge outlawed in Wisconsin
1916 End of boom years for button industry
1924 Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge established by Congress
1928-30 Natural reproduction of mussels on the Mississippi River was recognized as essentially nonexistent
1930 Locks and dams built to create a 9-foot deep channel for navigation. This resulted in a change from a free flowing river to a series of pools that occupy the river floodplain: Severe pollution in Mississippi River
1943 Water analysis in limited areas show some contamination
1946 No shelling below Muscatine, Iowa
1950's Development of synthetic buttons
1960 Development of market for mussel shells to be used as seeds in cultured pearls
1965 Flood on Upper Mississippi River
1966 Harvest of mussels using scuba gear begins
1973 Flood
1975 US Food and Drug Administration stops shipment of common carp from Lake Pepin because of high PCB concentrations
1976 Drought
1978 Lampsilis higginsii mussel becomes the first mussel to be on state and Federal endangered species lists
1987-90 Submerged aquatic plants diminish in upper pools of Mississippi River
1988 Wilderness Society lists Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge as among the 10 most endangered in the United States
1987-89 Drought
1989 10 mussels added to Wisconsin's endangered species list; 7 to threatened list
1991 First zebra mussel documented in Upper Mississippi River
1993 Major flood of entire Mississippi River basin
1999 Zebra mussels harm native mussels on the Upper Mississippi River  and tributaries
2000 Endangered Higgins eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsii) jeopardized by zebra mussels transported upstream by towboats and large recreational craft; endangered winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa) likely to be adversely affected in future
2000 Corps of Engineers implements Biological Opinion requirements for Higgins eye and winged mapleleaf.
2000 Corps of Engineers establishes interagency Mussel Coordination Team
2001 Mussel Coordination Team begins conservation activities for Higgins eye(genetics research, experimental propagation, monitoring, etc)
2003 Minnesota closes all mussel harvest  
2004 Mussel Coordination Team begins conservation activities for winged mapleleaf; host fish found to be blue and channel catfish
2004 To help all mussels, the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee releases a “Conservation Plan for Freshwater Mussels of the Upper Mississippi River System”
2004 Sheepnose (Plethobasus cyphyus) and Spectaclecase (Cumberlandia monodonta) became candidate species under the Endangered Species Act
2005 Mussel Coordination Team propagates winged mapleleaf in cages
2005 Wisconsin closes commercial mussel harvest; Iowa closes commercial mussel harvest in UMR bordering Wisconsin "
2006 - present Mussel Conservation Activities

Species Identification and LocationThreatened and Endangered MusselsLife HistoryEcology Mussel Harvest on the RiverCurrent ThreatsMussel Conservation ActivitiesOngoing Studies and ProjectsMultimediaTeacher ResourcesFrequently Asked QuestionsGlossaryReferencesLinks to Other Mussel Sites


Department of the InteriorU.S. Fish & Wildlife ServiceU.S. Geological Survey
Last updated on August 17, 2006