The body of a hiker missing in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve has been found along the banks of the Nizina River about a mile downstream from a long-abandoned bridge to the old Nizina Mining District, according to the National Park Service.
Searchers found the body of 34-year-old Nick Larsen, an employee of the Alaska Marine Highway System originally from Oregon, on Wednesday. A search for Larsen had resumed this week after his backpack was found Monday along the Nizina.
With temperatures falling in Eastern Alaska, glacial melt has slowed and rivers like the Nizina are starting to drop. It appears likely Larsen, who was on a planned backpacking trip by himself, was trying to cross the river and died in an accident.
The park service, however, said his body has been turned over to the state medical examiner, and the federal agency is awaiting a determination on cause of death before reaching any conclusions.
The abandoned Nizina bridge points the way to an old road system that once connected the community of McCarthy to gold mines along Dan, May and Chititu creeks. It is about a 12 mile hike from the summer-busy, tourist town of McCarthy to the bridge, and the map of the old roads across the river leading for more than a dozen more miles across the flat lands and into the mountains beyond could easily tempt an adventurous hiker.
“The May Creek and Dan Creek was a very important mining area in existence before McCarthy or Kennecott,” says a trail brochure available at the McCarthy Lodge. “The first phone system went in between McCarthy and Dan Creek. The end of your hike is rewarded by the incredible sight of the Nizina Bridge. The Nizina Bridge tells the importance the early Territorial Government placed in this area and the dollar wealth it produced. The road is about 12 miles in length with many homesteads scattered along the way.”
Across the Nizina from McCarthy, the old roads now lead the way through a country side attractively rich in history. The area features heavily in a park service publication about the “The Forgotten Mining Camps of the Wrangell Mountain Region.”
And, at low water, the heavily braided Nizina can look deceptively easy to cross by linking seemingly short water crossings and large gravel bars, but the river’s cold waters are fast and dangerous.
When the legendary Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic ran on a route from Nabesna on the north side of the Wrangell-St. Elias Park across the mountains to McCarthy on the south side, there were several close calls involving packrafters who got soaked floating the Nizina out of the mountains.