Successful Search and Rescue of Missing Kayaker

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Date: August 5, 2009
Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 460-888-7895

Glacier National Park is pleased to announce that a major search for a missing kayaker on Lake McDonald, a 13-year-old St. Paul, Minnesota resident, resulted in the successful rescue of the boy at about 6:15 PM on Tuesday, August 4th. At about 2:15 PM on the 4th, rangers were notified by the boy’s grandfather that he was unable to find his grandson after searching for about an hour in the upper section of Lake McDonald. High winds had churned the lake surface into very rough, choppy waves; rangers estimated waves at five to six feet high. 

The teenager was last seen near the middle of the lake in a plastic kayak. Rangers were assisted by Glacier Park Boat Company, Flathead County Sheriff’s Department, North Valley Search and Rescue, and Minute Man Aviation. Searchers utilized boats, a helicopter, and land searchers to find the boy. At about 4:00 PM, rangers located the capsized kayak near the middle of the lake. The search continued by land, air, and lake until about 6:15 PM, when the crew of the DeSmet, a park tour boat, saw the boy on the eastern shore of the lake about ½ mile south of Sprague Campground. 

The boy told the rangers that he had been capsized by a large wave, was unable to stay with the kayak, and swam to the far shore of the lake. He said he was so tired and cold when he got out that he crawled into a hollow log to warm up. He told rangers that he fell asleep in the log and slept there for about an hour. 

Rangers responded and a park medic treated the boy with the recommendation that he be taken to the hospital to be checked out after potentially suffering from hypothermia. The boy was wearing a properly fitting personal flotation device and a “shorty” style wetsuit.

Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that personal flotation devices save lives, as indicated in this case, and that water-related accidents are the number one cause of death in Glacier National Park. 

“Please be prepared for bad and changing weather, swift, cold water, and use caution whenever you are around water in the park,” stated Cartwright. For more details on water preparedness, go to

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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