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Our Story

In 1966, the Hudson River was dying from pollution and neglect. Run-down factories choked it with hazardous waste, poisoning fish, threatening drinking water supplies, and ruining world-class havens for boating and swimming. Sadly, America’s “First River” had become little more than an industrial sewer.

At that time, the Hudson River fishermen decided they had enough. Because their catch reeked from oil spilled daily into the river, they banded together to use a decades-old federal law to the tide from ruin to recovery.  

This was the founding of the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association – now Riverkeeper. Today, Riverkeeper continues its fight, seeking out polluters and teaming with citizen scientists and activists to reclaim the Hudson River. And, we also work to ensure that over nine million New Yorkers have clean, safe drinking water. Today, pollution levels are down, and swimming and boating are back.

But the Hudson’s recovery is still fragile, still incomplete. Some fish species have not recovered, and many remain too toxic to eat; pollution levels spike with every rainfall. Mammoth cuts in government spending threaten to reverse a half-century of water quality gains, and we face the challenges of antiquated power plants, climate change, and emerging, harmful pollutants.

Riverkeeper’s vision is of a Hudson teeming with life, with engaged communities boating, fishing and swimming throughout its watershed.

Here’s what Riverkeeper stands for:

  • Guarding your waterways. Riverkeeper holds polluters accountable, making the Hudson safer and cleaner each year. We patrol the river, inform the public, and go to court whenever it’s necessary, to eliminate illegal contamination.
  • Defending clean drinking water. Community water supplies are increasingly threatened by pollution and shortage. Riverkeeper empowers citizens to make their voices heard and assure that their precious drinking water resources stay clean and plentiful. Our locally-based “water democracy” approach gets results.
  • Finding solutions. Riverkeeper fights threats to clean water like destructive power plants, reckless development and decrepit infrastructure. We also specialize in solutions: we improve wildlife habitat, foster sustainable energy, increase investment in water supply/sewer systems, and rally thousands of volunteers to restore their local river fronts.


“Our strategy for success hasn’t changed much since we started out as the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association in 1966: Support the grassroots. Be data driven. Don’t flinch when the going gets tough.” – Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper

  • A Brief History

  • Timeline

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