Park Ranger James Randall "Randy" Morgenson

Park Ranger James Randall "Randy" 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 "Randy" 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

View all 41 Reflections

I met Ranger Randy Morgensen in 1985. We were in one of the most remote high basins in the Sierra Nevada when my hiking partner broke his foot. What a predicament to be in. Four days from any trailhead and miles of talus to get help. Within an hour of the incident, Ranger Randy came strolling up. He was on his day off and hiked up into Ionian Basin to get away from the crowds of the John Muir Trail. What are the odds? We spent some time that afternoon and most of the next day with Randy as he attempted to get a helicopter in to extract my partner (long story).

For years after that, Ranger Randy was an integral part of my memories of that time and my story of the events have been re-told to many. Some years later, I read that he went missing, then some years later, that he was found (rest in peace). Some time in 2008 or 2009, I was sharing my Ionian Basin story on a backpacking forum when I was pointed to a book, The Last Season. I learned many things about the man, the NPS, the anatomy of a SAR, etc. I also learned where he took his final Sierra steps. For several years now, I have been pulled by the desire to visit him in the Window Peak drainage to pay my respects and thank him again for his help in 1985 and his service in general. Next month, I will be on a stream side above Window Peak Lake, paying my respects and thanking Ranger Randy for his service.

Jim Rowley
U.S. Citizen

June 3, 2017

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