- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Wearing a wetsuit and towing a yellow raft, environmental educator Christopher Swain swam across the Hudson River on a gray and drizzly Wednesday to complete his trek of the 149-mile Mohawk River, the Hudson’s largest tributary.

The 46-year-old Boston resident made the trip to raise awareness of the river’s history, habitats and environmental challenges, sharing the experience through social media.

Swain started Oct. 20 in the shallow headwaters of the Mohawk in central New York, between the Tug Hill Plateau and western Adirondacks. He did the trip in segments, with the longest taking close to nine hours. He finished the last few hundred yards Wednesday morning with a media event in Troy where the Mohawk flows into the Hudson.

He said he’s seen firsthand how settlement, growth, sprawl and industry have transformed the river, which has long been an important transportation route westward from the Hudson.

“Everything we’ve done to rivers we’ve done to the Mohawk,” he said. “But it’s still an incredible river in many parts, with incredible natural beauty and some great habitats.”

In his online journal, Swain said the shallow, rocky upper reaches of the Mohawk River were beautiful but difficult.

“I have glimpsed unspoiled wilderness, startling amounts of wildlife, and profuse natural beauty. I have also been rag-dolled over waterfalls, folded under logjams, and slammed into boulders,” he wrote. Swain chose to swim in the fall because the summer water level is too low in the river’s upper reaches. That meant he sometimes swam in falling snow as ice began coating the 36-degree water.

Swain said he enjoys telling his story to schoolchildren as a way to encourage them to think about river health and the environment. He said he also just loves to swim.

In 2003, Swain completed a swim of the 1,243-mile-long Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. In 2004, he swam the Charles and Hudson rivers and Lake Champlain, all to support clean, swimmable water.

“I would very much like to swim the Hudson again,” said Swain, who’s also a trained acupuncturist. “I could tell the story in many different ways now, using social media that didn’t exist 10 years ago.”

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