About Chad


“The Mississippi River was literally Chad Pregracke’s back yard while growing up near East Moline, Illinois. The son of educators and river enthusiasts, KeeKee and Gary Pregracke, Chad and his older brother, Brent, spent the majority of their time on, in, and around the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Between his childhood and first job as a clam digger, it didn’t take long before realizing that he didn’t like what he saw – above or below the river – and decided to do something about it.

Chad Pregracke

When he was 17, Chad began to make calls to government agencies to make them aware of the problems with the river. He assumed calls would prompt someone to do something about it, however, no one did and the problems only worsened.  In 1997, Chad decided that if no one else was going to clean up the river, he would. In 1998, Chad founded Living Lands & Waters.

Today, Living Lands & Waters includes a full staff and fleet of equipment. The crew averages about nine states per year along the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers, as well as their many tributaries. Chad recently expanded the mission of the organization to include Student Educational Workshops, The MillionTrees Project, Adopt-a-River Mile, Invasive Species Removal, and The Great Mississippi River Cleanup.

To date, Chad and his nonprofit have removed over 10 million pounds of trash from America’s waterways, planted over 1.2 million trees, directly educated over 11,000 students, and has coordinated over 100,000 volunteers since 1997.”  

(Source: Living Lands & Waters website, www.livinglandsandwaters.org)

Books & Media

Chad’s 2007 book.

Chad released a book in 2007 with National Geographic called “From the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers”.  He was also featured in the Time Magazine article “Meet the New Huck.”

He has been featured In a variety of TV programs and interviews, including ABC World News, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic, NBC Nightly News and the Today Show.


Chad has received over 40 awards and honors over the years.  Notably, he was named CNN’s Hero of the Year in 2013 and was the recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service in June 2002. He also received the distinct honor at the Points of Lite Tribute at the Kennedy Center, where he received a standing ovation by all four living former U.S. Presidents in attendance.


To learn even more about Chad, check out this selection of links that highlight him and his work: