CNN Heroes Chad Pregracke and Doc Hendley

Watuaga River Partners thanks everyone who attended Chad Pregracke’s talk at the Harvest House in Boone on April 14!

Chad Pregracke, CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year, spoke at the Harvest House Performing Arts Venue in Boone on Monday, April 14. The free event was presented by Watauga River Partners, Mountain Keepers, and Western North Carolina Alliance.

Pregracke’s inspirational talk focused on his life’s work of cleaning garbage out of the Mississippi River and other waterways with his nonprofit Living Lands & Waters. Pregracke followed the talk by giving away 25 signed copies of his book, ““From the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers.”

About Chad Pregracke:

Pregracke was recognized by CNN last year as their Hero of the Year for his expansive efforts to clean the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways. Through his nonprofit Living Lands & Waterways, Pregracke, his staff and about 70,000 volunteers have collected more than 7 million pounds of garbage from rivers across the nation.

The Mississippi River was literally Chad Pregracke’s backyard while growing up in Illinois. He worked various jobs on the Mississippi during his summer breaks and quickly realized the waterway was severely neglected and plagued by trash. His frustration led to his founding of Living Lands & Waters in 1998 at age 23.

Today, Living Lands & Waters includes a full staff and fleet of equipment. Pregracke organizes 70 river cleanups a year. Close to 90% of what is recovered is recycled; Pregracke says the rest gets disposed of properly.

Pregracke lives on a barge about nine months out of the year with members of his 12-person crew. They are credited with pulling more than 67,000 tires, 218 washing machines, 19 tractors, four pianos, and 1000 refrigerators from the Mississippi River.

In addition to being the CNN Hero of the Year in 2013, Pregracke’s work has earned him numerous awards and honors over the years. He was the recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2002.

For more information on Chad Pregracke, visit