Combing the Beaches of the Colorado River
Posted by alainaflute on June 21, 2012
Mom (Jody) and I didn’t know what kind of souvenirs we’d be able to pick up on the riverbanks along the Colorado River on our desert beach-hopping trek. I was as happy as a clam that we didn’t go home treasure-less!
Rockhounds rejoice! The Colorado River is home to plenty of beautiful, multi-colored rocks. Even if rocks aren’t your favorite beach find, it would be a great idea to pick up a small stone or two to remind you of your trip. One lovely morning in Lake Havasu City, we met a very nice woman from Michigan (who lives in town, now) combing the shores of Rotary Park for pretty pebbles.
We only found one type of little clam shell along the banks of the Big Bend and Lake Havasu. These small, brown shells were rather plentiful. The insides ranged from white to deep purple, making a nice little multi-colored beach collection.
Not knowing their name, Mom went online to investigate what these little shells may be and concluded that they are Asian clam shells (corbicula fluminea- also Asiatic clam, prosperity clam), from a small, non-indigenous bivalve.
This little (less than 50mm) filter feeder has a vast native range from tropical southern Asia to the eastern Mediterranean, Africa, and southeast Asian islands into central and eastern Australia. Holy cow, he gets around! No wonder he feels so at home in 38 States and the District of Columbia.
Although their shells are fun to find, these clams are, unfortunately, an invasive species. It is possible that they were first introduced as a food item brought by Chinese immigrants or, perhaps, took a ride with the importation of the Giant Pacific oyster from Asia. How these guys traveled around the United States is unknown, but they can muck up power plant and industrial water systems, irrigation canals and pipes, and drinking supplies. I just won’t think of that while I’m looking at my salt shaker display of happy Colorado River beach memories.
Find out more about the Asian clam on the USGS Asian clam fact sheet, and have fun beachcombing!