NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
To: All National Park Service Areas and Offices
From: Division of Ranger Activities, Washington Office
Day/Date: Thursday, July 19, 2001
96-418 - Sequoia/Kings Canyon NPs (CA) - Follow-up: Search for Ranger
On July 26, 1996, the park began a major search for seasonal backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson, 54, who had not been heard from for five days. Morgenson was a skilled and competent ranger who had worked for the park for 28 years. The search was suspended due to a lack of clues about two weeks later. On Sunday, July 15th, four off-duty trail crew members found human remains in a stream drainage northeast of Window Peak, a remote, trailless area within Kings Canyon NP. A pack and some equipment were found in the same area. Rangers flew to the site and conducted a cursory search of the area. The type of backpack, style of hiking boot and other items found there were consistent with what Morgenson had in his possession when last heard from. Rangers and two teams of search dogs were flown to the site the next day. The search area focused on a stretch of stream drainage about a quarter mile north of the large lake east of Window Peak. Among the other items found were a park-issued portable radio and a ranger uniform shirt with a badge and Morgenson's name tag on it.
The remains will be sent to the Tulare County coroner for positive identification. It's believed that the remains are those of Morgenson, and that he died due to an accidental fall while attempting to cross the stream. The place where the remains were found was within an area of high probability of discovery in the original search, and had in fact been checked numerous times by ground searchers and dog teams. It's likely that his body was not seen due to the high amount of runoff in the stream that summer.
The search in 1996 was a difficult one for the park's staff - both emotionally and physically. This discovery, although not yet confirmed by dental records, has helped bring closure and comfort to those who knew and worked with him. Peer support counselors from both Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Santa Monica Mountains have conducted CISD sessions for involved park staff.
[Kris Fister, PIO, and Bob Wilson, LES, SEKI, 7/18]