Stopping Invasive Mussels

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Date: April 21, 2008
Contact: Heather Boothe, (970) 641-2337 ext. 206

(GUNNISON) – April 21, 2008
The National Park Service is working aggressively this spring to prevent destructive Zebra and Quagga Mussels from invading Blue Mesa’s outstanding fishery. Beginning this spring, all boats operated on Blue Mesa must be certified as mussel-free.

Zebra and Quagga mussels first arrived in the United States nearly twenty years ago. Since that time, they have had significant negative impacts to aquatic ecosystems in North America, beginning with the Great Lakes, moving south into the Mississippi River basin, and now in Colorado. They reproduce prolifically, compete with fish for food sources, clog water intake valves, encrust boat hulls and marina structures, and litter shorelines with razor-sharp smelly shells.

For many years, the western United States remained free of these invasive species, but in 2007, Quagga mussels were discovered in Lakes Mead, Mohave and Havasu. In January 2008, Zebra mussels were discovered for the first time in Colorado at Pueblo Reservoir. A single boat coming from these or other infected waters has the potential to infest Blue Mesa Reservoir and all downstream rivers, streams, water users, municipal drinking water intakes, and water-dependent industries with mussels. 


Unfortunately, Blue Mesa would provide ideal habitat for these animals if they are introduced. Mussels in Blue Mesa Reservoir would disrupt the fishery by reducing natural food sources, litter beaches with sharp, odor-producing shells, and ruin boat engines and steering equipment.


Although many have tried to find natural predators for these mussels, or have sought other eradication methods, none have been successful. Monitoring and control of a Zebra and Quagga mussel infestation at Blue Mesa Reservoir could potentially cost millions of dollars annually.


To protect our waterways and recreational opportunities, the National Park Service has instituted a prevention program. Beginning in Spring 2008, all watercraft on Blue Mesa Reservoir will need to be certified as Zebra and Quagga mussel-free. This is a simple self-certification process and is required before launching all watercraft. Vessels that have been used within 30 days in states infested with Zebra and/or Quagga mussels, or Front Range waters (including Pueblo Reservoir) will not be allowed on park waters until being dried for a specified period of time or washed at a suitable wash facility. The park has purchased portable washing facilities for use this summer at Elk Creek, Lake Fork, and Stevens Creek, and will have a permanent facility within the next year at Elk Creek. The washes are available for free for boats who need a wash for certification.


The certificate is easy to obtain, either at the park visitor centers or online at Operators of vehicles towing boat trailers parked within the National Recreation Area are required to display on the dashboard of their vehicle this “MUSSEL FREE” inspection certificate. Failure to display the required certificate may result in a citation.


For more information, contact the Elk Creek Visitors Center, (970) 641-2337 x205,

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, CO 81230


(970) 641-2337 x205

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