Pete Seeger died on January 27 this year; he was 94.

Most national publications and television networks had long eulogies for America’s great folksinger and environment activist. They wrote about his songs and his lifelong advocacy for civil rights, peace, labor, and an environmentally clean world.

We in the river villages also remember and honor him for his decades-long fight for the cleanup of the then-polluted Hudson

His most potent weapon was music. In 1961 he wrote and sang Sailing Down My Dirty Stream—
Sailing down my dirty stream
Still I love it and I’ll keep the dream
That some day, though maybe not this year
My Hudson River will once again run clear

It starts high in the mountains of the north
Crystal clear and icy trickles forth
With just a few floating wrappers of chewing gum
Dropped by some hikers to warn of things to come

At Glens Falls, five thousand honest hands
Work at the consolidated paper plant
Five million gallons of waste a day
Why should we do it any other way?

Down the valley one million toilet chains
Find my Hudson so convenient place to drain
And each little city says, “Who, me?
Do you think that sewage plants come free?”

Out in the ocean they say the water’s clear
But I live right at Beacon here
Half way between the mountains and sea
Tacking to and fro, this thought returns to me

Well it’s sailing up my dirty stream
Still I love it and I’ll dream
That some day, though maybe not this year
My Hudson and my country will run clear.

On our March cover
The Clearwater, Off Nyack NY
Original graphic by Shel Haber, © 1997 and 2014 by The Nyack Villager, Nyack, NY

The Clearwater, launched on May 17, 1969 was a replica of the original Hudson river sloops. Sloops were built in almost every Hudson River village from 1789 to 1867 but most (170) were built in Nyack shipyards; Marlboro NY built 112, Albany 106, Mount Pleasant 76, Peekskill 62.

The first Dutch ships on the Hudson were clumsy keelboats. Faced with the Hudson’s unpredictable winds, the Dutch modified these boats. What evolved was the Hudson River Sloop, a vessel that could easily navigate the river’s ever-changing conditions. Important in its design was comfortable passenger accommodations and a large cargo capacity. The Hudson became the commercial Highway for the early United States.

In 1832 a British traveler, John Finch, wrote “Twelve hundred sloops are employed on the Hudson. They are painted with the most brilliant colors and their white sails and variegated flags and streamers present a beautiful addition to the scenery of the river.”

In 1966, Pete and Toshi Seeger, saddened by the massive pollution of the beautiful Hudson, declared a plan to “build a boat to save the river.” That boat was the Clearwater. It is saving the river.