Mussels are useful indicator species of environmental stress and degradation, and the global decline in freshwater mussel diversity and abundance is of conservation concern. Elliptio complanata is a common freshwater mussel of eastern North America that can serve both as an indicator and as an experimental model for understanding mussel physiology and genetics. To support genetic components of these research goals, we assembled transcriptome contigs from Illumina paired-end reads. Despite efforts to collapse similar contigs, the final assembly was in excess of 136,000 contigs with an N50 of 982 bp. Even so, comparisons to the CEGMA database of conserved eukaryotic genes indicated that ∼20% of genes remain unrepresented. However, numerous candidate stress-response genes were present, and we identified lineage-specific patterns of diversification among molluscs for cytochrome P450 detoxification genes and two saccharide-modifying enzymes: 1,3 beta-galactosyltransferase and fucosyltransferase. Less than a quarter of contigs had protein-level similarity based on modest BLAST and Hmmer3 statistical thresholds. These results add comparative genomic resources for molluscs and suggest a wealth of novel proteins and noncoding transcripts.