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Susquehanna Life

Web Extra: More Information about French Creek

Jun 04, 2015 05:03PM ● By Erica Shames

French Creek, which could accurately be described as an old-growth river because of the low level of manmade disturbance it has seen, may hold the key to restoring rare populations of animals into other parts of the Ohio river system.

Along its 117 miles, from western New York across northwestern Pennsylvania, the river is home to more than 28 freshwater mussel species, including 13 that are listed as endangered in Pennsylvania and the federally endangered northern riffleshell and clubshell. These two species are critically imperiled, having lost more than 95 percent of their historic range.

Freshwater mussels are vulnerable to changes in their surroundings. But their habitats in French Creek – still occupied by individuals of varying ages, some 60- to 70-years-old – may have gone largely undisturbed for thousands of years.

Other parts of the Ohio river system, where the same mussels once were abundant, have not fared as well. French Creek, as well as parts of the Allegheny River, are now seen as a conservation refuge for species that could be reintroduced in other parts of the river system. Reintroduced mussels would benefit the river by cleansing the water as they filter it to feed themselves.

French Creek also supports rare fish found in only a handful of other rivers, including Longhead Darter and Spotted Darter. The hellbender, Pennsylvania ’s largest salamander, inhabits French Creek as well, feasting on crayfish, yet another pollution-sensitive family of animals.

For more information, visit the

French Creek Summer Sojourn 2014

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