As the summer boating season winds down, officials are asking people to take precautions when moving watercraft between or out of bodies of water to stop the spread of the zebra mussel.
The invasive species have been found in Lake Travis, Lake LBJ, and Lake Marble Falls, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It often hitches a ride to other bodies of water on watercraft that have not been properly cleaned, drained, and dried.
It’s virtually impossible for the human eye to detect zebra mussel larvae, which can be unintentionally transported to other bodies of water if boaters do not take the proper precautions.
In fact, state law requires people to drain water from their boats and other watercraft to prevent the transfer of invasive species. This includes every type of craft, whether powered or not, including kayaks and canoes.
Even small puddles of water in a craft’s crevices could contain zebra mussel larvae.
Adults only grow to about 1½ inches long, but the mussels amass in huge numbers, causing damage. Zebra mussels block or plug water intakes, colonize on docks and similar structures, latch onto boats and motors, and form treacherous obstacles in the water and along the shore for bare feet.
Since 2019, the Travis County Parks Department has been warning people about the dangers that zebra mussels pose for swimmers, waders, and walkers. Zebra mussel shells are hard and sharp. Travis County parks officials recommend people wear some type of footwear when swimming or wading in Lake Travis or walking along the shore.
While levels on lakes Marble Falls and LBJ aren’t as variable as Travis, recreational users should still consider protecting their feet in the water.
The LCRA continues to monitor the Highland Lakes for invasive species and is trying to prevent the spread of zebra mussels to Lake Buchanan and Inks Lake. A big part of protecting those two lakes, as well as other Texas waters, is boater vigilance.
Visit texasinvasives.org to learn more about zebra mussels and other invasive species in Texas.