Search Underway for Overdue Backpackers in Denali National Park and Preserve
Contact: Kris Fister, 907-683-9583
The National Park Service has initiated an air and ground search for two missing backpackers, Abby Flantz, 25, from Craylord, Minnesota, and Erica Nelson, 23, from Las Vegas, Nevada. The two women were last seen on Thursday, June 12 at the Savage River Check Station. They had obtained their wilderness permit earlier that day, and their planned itinerary was to do a one night backpacking trip and return on Friday, June 13. The National Park Service was notified that they were overdue on Saturday, June 14 when they failed to report for work at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.
The search is focused on the Savage River drainage north of the Denali Park Road, the most likely route that the pair would have utilized to access the Mount Healy wilderness unit they had a permit for. Potential camping areas and other travel routes on Mount Healy and in the adjacent Primrose Ridge backcountry unit are also being investigated. Saturday’s air search utilizing two helicopters and a fixed wing aircraft yielded no sign of the two women.
Three teams of ground searchers were deployed on Sunday, June 15 to investigate the heavily wooded and vegetated sections within the primary search area that can not be effectively searched with aircraft. The air search is continuing, utilizing the high-altitude Lama helicopter that is based in Talkeetna to support the park’s mountaineering operations and one of the park’s fixed-wing aircraft. Approximately 40 people are committed to today’s search effort.
The two women are experienced trail hikers, but have had limited experience with Alaska backcountry conditions. Weather conditions have been mostly typical of the season, i.e. daytime highs in the 60s, with nighttime lows in the 40s, although Saturday was warmer.
As part of the investigation supporting the search effort, National Park Service search managers would like to speak with anyone who was hiking in the Savage River drainage between Thursday, June 12 and Sunday, June 15. Anyone who may have information to share is asked to call (907) 683-9648.
Did You Know?
The vast landscapes of interior Alaska are changing. Large glaciers are receding, permafrost is melting and woody plants are spreading. Comparison of "then-and-now" photographs and data from major vegetation monitoring should allow detection, understanding and potential management of these changes.