Alaska News

Body of missing Oregon man found in Denali National Park

A 24-year-old Oregon man found dead in Denali National Park and Preserve Sunday apparently died of a head injury after a fall on steep terrain, according to a park spokeswoman.

Michael Purdy was first reported missing in the park on Saturday after he failed to appear for his first day of work at Denali ATV Tours in Healy, the park said in a statement announcing a search for him.

Purdy's body was discovered Sunday afternoon near the north end of the Savage River Loop Trail, a popular 2-mile ramble that tracks the river.

"Clues indicate that Purdy had diverted from the riverside trail to do some scrambling on higher terrain when he fell and suffered a fatal head injury," the release said.

The remains were found about 100 feet from the trail, said park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri.

Searchers believe he died Tuesday, the last day he had contact with anyone, she said.

The State Medical Examiner Office will examine the remains after they are recovered with a helicopter. The operation was underway Sunday evening, Gualtieri said.


Purdy was planning to take day hikes in the park in the days prior to his starting his second season of work at Denali ATV Tours in Healy, according to a statement from the park Sunday.

His employer reported him missing on Saturday.

Rangers found Purdy's car parked at the Savage East parking lot, at Mile 15 of the Park Road.

"Based on sightings by rangers and other staff, the vehicle has potentially been parked at that location since Tuesday, April 26," the statement from the park said.

Cellphone records indicate Purdy last called his employer the same day.

The vehicle contained overnight backpacking gear, food and other supplies.

"Friends, family and co-workers describe Mike Purdy as an adventurous and experienced backcountry hiker familiar with the park," the statement said.

Sunday's search involved aerial searchers focusing on steep, brushy terrain around the Savage River, Mount Margaret and Healy Ridge areas.

About 15 people and a search and rescue dog were on the ground combing the same areas. A member of the ground crew discovered the remains.

Purdy is the first person to die this year in the park.

His family has been notified, Gualtieri said.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.