Swimming 130 Miles to New York City to Prove Importance of Healthy Rivers

Clean Water Advocate and New York Native Christopher Swain has already swum the entire lengths of the Hudson River, the Gowanus Canal, and Newtown Creek. Now the 48-year-old father of two plans to swim more than 130 miles from the easternmost tip of Long Island, to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  His route includes the entire lengths of Long Island Sound and the East River.

“I was born in New York City. I love the water, and I want it to be safe for swimming every day,” Swain said in an email to National Geographic Voices.

“I got stung in the face by jellyfish once on my first swim day and three times on my second swim day” Swain said in an email to National Geographic Voices. “It hurts, but it seems a small price to pay if it gets us closer to the day when all of New York’s waterways are clean enough to swim in.” Photograph courtesy of Christopher Swain

“I believe that every waterway in New York should be safe for swimming every day,” Swain explained in a news statement about this venture. “The point of this swim is to call for a permanent end to the illegal dumping of raw sewage into our waterways.”

 Swain aims to spend 4-6 hours a day in the water during the 18-20 days that he reckons it will take him to complete this swim. He will be escorted by a safety boat throughout his journey, and he will take occasional days off to spend time with his family, and to make presentations to schools and other organizations. Swain estimates he will reach New York City in early November, possibly sooner if he enjoys favorable ocean conditions.

Throughout his swim, Swain will be collecting water quality data, documenting conditions he finds in photographs and video clips, and monitoring his own physiological parameters like hours of sleep, calories consumed and burned, and heart rate.  All of this information will be made available for free to interested teachers in the region. Educators interested in classroom visits are encouraged to contact Swain by email at

Swain’s swim also serves as a fundraiser for his Campaign For Swimmable Waterways in NY.  He plans to post regular updates on his progress.