So Many National Park Mysteries—Yet You’ve Never Heard of Any of Them
Updated: Sep 17
Over 1,600 people have disappeared without a trace from national parks across North America. Yes, that’s out of over 300 million who visit those parks. But we’re not talking about people who head down the wrong trail, get too close to a canyon’s edge, or are attacked by a wild animal. I mean disappeared. Vanished. There one moment and gone the next.
Think about that, knowers.
If 1,600 people had disappeared in movie theatres or nightclubs or baseball games, it would be featured in news segments and articles, with police interviews and breathless recitations of statistics. But when people disappear from Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Sequoia, Rocky Mountain, or any other of the 63 national parks, you almost never hear much about it.
Why is that? Good question. Part of the reason is the U.S. National Parks Service (NPS) doesn’t keep records of disappearances. You heard that right. And neither do the Department of the Interior nor the US Forest Service. When someone goes missing and the Search and Rescue groups don’t find them, by policy no record is kept. Perhaps even worse, when remains are found in a national park, there’s no mechanism to keep any record of that, either. Because there’s no record keeping or database, that 1,600 number is only an estimate.
I’ve only recently learned of this phenomenon myself, having stumbled across a series of articles—remember what I’ve told you all about the interminable research that goes into SOMEBODY KNOWS?—about the work of former police detective, investigative journalist/author, and director of the Canam Missing Project David Paulides. For ten years, Paulides has been investigating the disappearances of people from national parks, beginning when he was approached during an unrelated investigation by a couple of park rangers who shared with him their concerns about what they saw happening in the parks with people who went missing. Ten books and two documentary films later, and he’s the leading authority on these missing persons cases.
Not that there’s much to know. At least when it comes to the missing individuals.
What Paulides has done, though, is identify patterns when it comes to these missing folk, the elements that repeat from case to case: tracking dogs unable to pick up a scent; lost children who are found discovered in inexplicable distant locations; bodies discovered with missing shoes—and clean socks.
Weird stuff, knowers. And next time I’ll delve into a few of the cases and their details.