Chad Pregracke

The River Rescuer

Wharton Field House
Wharton Field House


An intimate look at the extraordinary work of a remarkable man.

The inspiring story of the difference a single individual can make—and the leadership that inspires others to do their part cleaning America's backyard, one piece of garbage, one river at a time.

Follow Chad Pregracke from his carefree childhood to the early days of his solitary cleanups and the founding of Living Lands and Waters, a conservation organization that has cleared tons of garbage from rivers across our nation, and how his passion for conservation brought Chad to a river clean up in Africa.

Chad Pregracke—The River Rescuer won a CINE Golden Eagle Award, First Place Public Affairs from the Iowa Broadcast News Association and was a Telly Award finalist.

Learn more about Living Lands and Waters

2013, CNN: Chad Pregracke and his group have removed millions of pounds of garbage from American waterways. They hit a new milestone in 2016. Anderson Cooper reports.


2013 CNN: Nearly 70,000 volunteers have helped CNN Hero Chad Pregracke remove millions of pounds of garbage from U.S. rivers.

About Chad Pregracke

Growing up in the Quad Cities (near East Moline), the Mississippi River was literally Chad Pregracke’s back yard. 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.

At the age of 17, Chad started making calls to government agencies to notify them of the problem, assuming someone would take care of it. Year after year passed by and the problem only worsened. In 1997, Chad decided that if no one else was going to clean up the river, he would.

In 1998 at the age of 23, Chad founded Living Lands & Waters. Today, the organization has grown to include a full staff and fleet of equipment. The crew averages nine states a year along the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio Rivers, as well as many of their tributaries. Read more


Official Press Release

Chad Pregracke: The River Rescuer has won a CINE Golden Eagle Award, First Place Public Affairs from the Iowa Broadcast News Association and was a finalist in the Telly Awards.

WQPT—Quad Cities PBS presents a new documentary featuring the life of local environmentalist, Chad Pregracke. "The River Rescuer" follows the story of Chad Pregracke, the Quad Citian who has received numerous awards and national recognition for his environmental work. By the summer of 2004, the organization he founded Living Lands and Waters—has cleaned over 1150 tons of debris from the shoreline of rivers across our nation.

Lora Adams produced and wrote the script with co-producing and editing done by Brad Mosier. Former Quad Citian Thomas Hart, now a writer in California, shares writing credit with Adams. Ralph Iaccarino created original music for the biography.

The documentary features a combination of video shot by WQPT, as well as video acquired from other sources. Among them: CNN, ABC Australia, the Missouri Dept. of Conservation and the African Summit. It also features interviews with family members, his team and crew, and regional persons who had an influence on Chad's career.

Narrated by Tom Wopat (Dukes of Hazard).

"The documentary is a nice addition to our work at WQPT," noted WQPT's General Manager. There has been a great deal of interest in Chad over the last several years and he has been featured in short stories both locally and nationally. "This is the first biography of Chad that focuses on him as a person and not just on his remarkable project," said producer Lora Adams. "Chad Pregracke: The River Rescuer" was produced with funding provided by the Scott County Regional Authority.

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