The Chesapeake, Delaware, and Hudson basins are three of the most historic and populous watersheds in the United States. This mid-Atlantic megabasin covers just 2 percent of the U.S. yet is home to 10 percent of the nation’s population. Each of these interstate basins is managed with different emphasis on governance ranging from voluntary agreement (Chesapeake Bay) to compulsory compact (Delaware River) to advocacy (Hudson River). This perspective provides a comparative history of the discovery, decline, and recovery of some of the more famous river basins in America. If an individual can understand the unique historic character of a watershed and its own essential “sense of place”, then one may be more committed to cleaning up its waters. Knowledge of the past holds valuable lessons for the future as these famous watersheds continue to rebound from a polluted legacy under three different but somewhat effective watershed governance model.