From July 19, 2001 edition of The Bakersfield Californian.

Remains believed to be that of missing ranger

Filed: 07/19/2001

By BRYAN SWAIM, Californian staff writer e-mail:

The remains of a park ranger who disappeared five years ago while on patrol in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks apparently were found Sunday, parks officials said. Randy Morgenson, 54, was last heard from on July 20, 1996, before setting off on a back-country patrol. A note was found July 21 at his duty station saying he was expecting to be gone three to four days. A search was initiated for him July 25 and at its peak involved 90 people, five helicopters, and eight dog teams. No clues were found, and the search was scaled back Aug. 2, 1996.

Almost five years to the day he was last seen, four off-duty trail crew members found remains and a leather hiking boot in a stream drainage northeast of Window Peak, a remote and trailless area of Kings Canyon National Park. A pack and some equipment were also found in the same area.Park rangers and two teams of search dogs were flown to the site Monday and focused the search on the stretch of stream drainage approximately a quarter-mile north of a large lake east of Window Peak. Searchers located additional remains, a hand-held radio, and a park ranger uniform with a badge and Morgenson's name tag on it.Remains were sent to the Fresno County coroner for identification against dental records, and results should be back within seven to 10 days. It is believed that Morgenson died from an accidental fall while attempting to cross the stream.

The location where the remains were recovered was searched by rangers multiple times in 1996. It is likely Morgenson's body was not seen because of the high amount of runoff in the stream that summer.Kris Fister, spokeswoman for Sequoia and Kings national parks, said the 1996 search was difficult emotionally for the parks staff, and although the dental records haven't yet confirmed the remains are Morgenson's, the findings have brought some closure to those who knew him. "We're 99.9 percent certain the remains belong to Randy," she said.Back country refers to the wild terrain in the sequoias accessible only by foot.

Morgenson served as a back-country ranger in Sequoia and Kings Canyon for 28 years. He lived in Arizona and worked at the park during the summer.