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Alaska News

National Park Service searching vast Alaska wilderness for man missing near McCarthy

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: August 19, 2017
  • Published August 19, 2017

The National Park Service continued to search the vast and remote Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve on Saturday for a 34-year-old Oregon man last seen in McCarthy about two weeks ago.

The National Park Service is searching for Nick Larsen, pictured here, who was last seen in McCarthy on Aug. 7, 2017. (Courtesy National Park Service)

The man, Nick Larsen, had plans to backpack alone in the backcountry near McCarthy, a tiny community located in the heart of the national park, about 60 miles east of Chitina, according to the National Park Service.

Jamie Hart, a Kennecott-based public information officer for the park service, said the agency had little other information to go on, including when exactly Larsen left for his backpacking trip, where he was going and how long he planned to hike through the wilderness.

"People saw him in town and then that was pretty much about it," Hart said. "He didn't tell anybody specifics."

Larsen was last seen at The McCarthy Lodge on Aug. 7, according to Alaska State Troopers. Troopers said he told lodge employees and his parents that he planned to backpack by himself "in the backcountry there."

Hart said Larsen was traveling alone and had taken a Wrangell-St. Elias Tours shuttle to McCarthy. Another passenger took a photograph of him smiling in patterned shorts at the Kuskulana Bridge on the way into town.

The park service is now circulating that photograph in its search for Larsen and asking anyone with information that might help it narrow its search area to call 1-800-478-2724. The park service wants to speak with anyone who saw or talked to Larsen or knows of his intended hiking route.

"We don't have a whole lot that we're looking at right now because it's such a broad search area," Hart said.

Wrangell-St. Elias is the America's largest national park. It covers 13.2 million acres, equivalent to Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and Switzerland combined, according to the park service.

Hart said Larsen's family reported him missing to Alaska State Troopers on Friday, Aug. 11, and troopers issued a missing persons bulletin for him Monday. Three days later, troopers notified the National Park Service and transferred the command of the search and rescue operations to the agency, Hart said.

On Friday, park rangers completed an aerial search in the backcountry areas of the Nizina River, McCarthy Creek and the Kennicott Valley, but did not find anything, Hart said. On Saturday, a team searched a nearby trail.

The park service described Larsen as a white man who is 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 190 pounds. He has brown hair, hazel eyes and a "brightly colored, full right-arm 'sleeve' tattoo from his shoulder to his wrist," according to the park service.

Larsen is believed to be wearing a dark green, long-sleeved shirt and either black pants or the patterned shorts pictured in the photograph at the bridge, according to the park service. He also had a tan REI-brand, two-person tent.