As part of his mission to protect threatened waterways, Christopher Swain was the first person in history to swim the entire lengths of the Columbia, Charles, Hudson, Mohawk, and Mystic rivers, as well as Lake Champlain, the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and large sections of the Atlantic coast of the U.S.
During his swims, Swain has survived collisions with boats, twelve-foot waves, lightning storms, class IV+ rapids, waterfalls, logjams, toxic blue-green algae, blood-sucking lamprey eels, oil slicks, raw sewage spills, great white shark habitat, and water laced with arsenic, cyanide, dioxin, radioactive waste, PCBs, and neuro-toxic pesticides. Over the last two decades, he has worked with over 80,000 North American schoolchildren, and stories about his environmental efforts have reached a worldwide media audience of more than two billion people.
In 2007 Swain received the Harry E. Schlenz Public Education Medal from the Water Environment Federation, and was featured in the International Swimming Hall of Fame book Swimmers: Courage & Triumph. In 2006 he became the youngest of twenty-one conservationists profiled in Rachel White Scheuring’s Shapers of the Great Debate on Conservation: A Biographical Dictionary. In 2005, at the invitation of U.N. staff, he designed, produced, and emceed a launch event for the U.N. Decade of Action Water for Life 2005–2015, which brought together representatives from every major religion, and indigenous peoples from around the globe, to offer their prayers and blessings for the world’s waters. In 2004 he was elected to the Men’s Journal Adventure Hall of Fame and featured as Person of the Week on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. In 2003 he received an e-chievement Award on National Public Radio’s e-town and an International Earth Day Award from the Earth Society at the U.N.