Denali National Park Officials Intensify Search for Missing Backpackers

Searchers in Denali National Park & Preserve have failed to locate two female backpackers reported missing after they failed to return from what supposed to be an overnight trip in the park.

Abby Flantz, 25, and Erica Nelson, 23, are employees of the Denali Wilderness Princess Lodge, a hotel located near the park. The two women obtained a permit for a backpacking trip, indicating that they would hike to the Mount Healy Wilderness Unit, camp overnight, and then return on Friday, June 13. The Park Service was notified they were missing after the pair failed to report for work on Saturday, June 14.

Flantz and Nelson, experienced backpackers, were seen Thursday, June 12, on the Savage River Trail downstream from the Savage River Bridge. No subsequent sightings have been reported, and searchers have found no further trace of them.

Park officials have expanded and intensified the search. The area now being searched encompasses about 100 square miles of rugged terrain in the Savage River drainage, the trailless area the women would need to traverse to reach the Mount Healy Wilderness Unit. Areas west of the river have been included in the search because high water might have prevented the two women from fording the river.

More than 60 people, including five grounds crews of three or four people each are now searching high priority areas. Available air resources include a high altitude Lama helicopter, a Bell 206 Long Ranger from AirLogistics of Fairbanks, and one of the park’s fixed-wing aircraft. The PAWS search organization in Fairbanks has sent two dog teams (dog and handler) to assist with the search.