Tragic Repeat Of A Too Common Story: Body Of Missing Hunter Found

David White Of North Pole Found Dead Along Remote Creek By Packrafters Looking For Him  Photo from an August 25, 2012 Wrangell-St. Elias we...

David White Of North Pole Found Dead Along
Remote Creek By Packrafters Looking For Him 

Photo from an August 25, 2012 Wrangell-St. Elias webpost: "Patrolling the North Side" about a trip by rangers through the Jacksina Creek drainage, "Wrangell-St. Elias Backcountry Ranger"  

August 22, 2021

The body of a 40-year old North Pole hunter, David White, has been found after an extensive search. (See earlier Country Journal story of the search). 

The National Park Service on Sunday said that White had been swept to his death by the Jacksina Creek current, after he apparently tried to ford  the creek. 

Wrangell-St. Elias put out a press release on Sunday, August 22:


Copper Center, AK – On August 21st, the body of missing hunter, David White, was found alongside Jacksina Creek in the northern part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

On August 12th, 40-year-old David White from North Pole, AK stopped regular communication by InReach during a hunting trip in the Jacksina/Canyon Creek area near the end of the Nabesna Road in Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve. His last InReach message indicated he was about to cross Jacksina Creek to access a hunting area across the valley.

On the evening of August 16th, National Park Service (NPS) Rangers were notified by his point- of-contact that he had stopped checking in. Starting August 17th, NPS search teams and Alaska Wildlife Troopers scanned the area daily. By August 20th, White was officially overdue; helicopters and fixed wing aircraft continued searching from the air while ground teams walked and packrafted the area looking for signs of the hunter.

At approximately 2:30 pm on August 21st, packrafting search team personnel found the deceased alongside Jacksina Creek. Based on evidence found by searchers, it appears that White attempted to cross Jacksina Creek and was swept away by the current. The body was recovered and transported to the State Medical Examiner’s office.

The NPS reminds hunters and visitors to be prepared for difficult river and creek crossings that can be extremely dangerous, even for experienced backcountry users.

An Easy Place To Drown 

David White's death is one of countless tragedies involving the Copper Valley's many roiling rivers and streams, going back to the 1898 Gold Rush and before. The Copper Valley's rivers, lakes and creeks are extremely hazardous. Water drownings are very common. 

In the early 1900s, for example, Addison Powell, who wrote "Trailing & Camping in Alaska" noted: 

"In 1903 seven persons attempted to float down the Nizina River in a small boat, and four of the seven were drowned. One woman swam down stream a long distance, but finally sank. A little boy wept when assisted into the boat, and he, too, was drowned. A man was going down the river on a raft with his two dogs. The dogs returned the  following day, but the man never was heard from. Another drowned near Taral, and another lost his life in an airhole in the ice, during the early part of the spring. Bundy, a colored man, was drowned in the Tazlina River where Gokona Charley had been drowned the year before…"

There were other incidents, too. Powell wrote of miners drowning in two feet of water near the end of the glacier, and hitting rocks and drowning in the Tazlina River – along with numerous other equally tragic water-involved deaths. 

In more recent times, drownings have continued. 

In 2004, three members of a family were on a fishing trip in May on the Little Tok River. When their 10-year old daughter fell in, her dad and 16-year old brother jumped in to save her. All of them drowned in the Little Tok – in 15 feet of water. 

There have been decades of drownings here. In lakes, streams, at river crossings, on horseback, in downed planes, in boats and canoes... some of the victims were veteran hunters and adults. Others were young people and children. 

Drowning victims have been experienced, longtime Copper Valley residents. They've been tourists from the Lower 48, outdoorsmen, school teachers –  or they were here from one of Alaska's large cities and expected to go back home after a pleasant weekend.  Many have been dipnetters and fishermen at Chitina. 

The casual and unexpected way in which somebody can die in water in the Copper Valley is exemplified by a small story in the June 20th, 1996 Copper River Country Journal:

On June 17th, a 12-year old Fairbanks boy had been playing on a piece of floating ice with a friend at Summit Lake, north of Paxson on the Richardson Highway. The lake is always slow to thaw in the summer, but this year, after an extremely cold winter, it had been especially slow. The ice floe had drifted from shore, and the two boys fell into the lake. The 12-year old couldn't swim, plus he had the added handicap of wearing hip boots, which filled with water and sank him to the bottom. Troopers recovered his body that day. 


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