Park Ranger James Randall Morgenson

Park Ranger James Randall Morgenson

United States Department of the Interior - National Park Service, U.S. Government

End of Watch Tuesday, July 23, 1996

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James Randall Morgenson

Park Ranger James (Randy) Morgenson drowned after being swept over a waterfall while on a backcountry patrol in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, California. Other rangers began to search for him after he failed to check in with dispatch at the regular time following the first day of the patrol.

Despite an exhaustive search, his remains were not found until July 2001, nearly five years after he went missing. The investigation indicated that he likely fell through a snow drift and broke his leg while crossing a creek, dying of associated injuries and hypothermia. His remains were washed down the creek and into a small cascade where they were hidden in the rocks for years.

Ranger Morgenson had served with the National Park Service for 27 years. He was survived by his wife.


  • Age 51
  • Tour 27 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Drowned
  • Location California

Most Recent Reflection

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The simplistic beauty of Randy's doctrine as outlined in his many writings from throughout his life are as profound as they are pointed. His disgust for and disappointment of his fellow mans' disregard for the natural wilderness, which he brilliantly encapsulated with the term "Swinus Americanus" he was often heard bandying about, was absolutely justified and a perspective I share.

He was rightfully frustrated with the Federal Government's unwillingness to acknowledge the importance of the roles played by him and his colleagues by elevating their positions to that the rest of the federal government civil servant ranks, thus compensating them appropriately for their time and expertise. It's a glaring indication of where our nation collectively prioritizes the protection and management of the finite natural resources we are so fortunate to have access to.

To that point, Randy's willingness to return each year to remain active in his role, and do so in light of the unfair system which unashamedly exploited him for, is testament to his love for the natural environment and unbridled passion to protect it from those who willfully defile it.

I suspect Randy's death, while not without physical pain and emotional trauma, was a peaceful, in many ways spiritual experience for him once he came to terms with his fate. I am absolutely certain that given the choice of where his death would occur, he was exactly where he would have wanted to be.

I only wish that Randy, and individuals like him were not just celebrated after they pass away, although I could see him rejecting such notaries had that happened. I would have loved to have been privileged enough to have met him and spend as much time learning from him as he was willing to offer. I'd have been a better human being for it moving forward. All we can do now is honor his memory by being the best custodians of the planet we are so fortunate to have been born on.

Pete L.
Private Citizen

February 9, 2022

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