More Than 2000 People Disappear Every Year In Alaska

Robin Barefield
9 min readAug 6, 2018
Kodiak Island, Alaska

Since authorities began keeping records in 1988, 60,700 people have been reported missing in Alaska. That’s five people reported missing every year per 1000 residents. Each year, an average of 2,250 people disappear in Alaska, twice the national average. Some of these people are found alive and well, and the remains of others are found, but many disappear without a trace.

Most of Alaska is a vast, untamed wilderness, and it draws adventurers from around the world to climb the mountains, kayak the raging rivers, or simply experience nature in its rawest form. Alaska also attracts dropouts, those running from the law or the responsibilities of their lives, and young people trying to “find themselves” or wishing to experience a wilderness lifestyle. Reality rarely matches the fantasy; there’s a reason so few people live in the rugged wilderness of Alaska. Alaska is a place of extremes. The state is defined by bitterly cold temperatures, raging rivers, harsh storms, treacherous mountains, and wild predators at the top of the food chain. Those who have lived a lifetime in the wilderness respect the dangers and know not to take them lightly. Still, sometimes even those knowledgeable about the wilderness and its perils disappear.

The disappearance of Chris McCandless became a well-known tale when Jon Krakauer wrote the speculative non-fiction book titled, Into the Wild, followed by a movie of the same name about the travels and adventures of the troubled, young McCandless. Many disappearances, though, never make the news. Richard Lyman Griffis from Spokane, Washington invented a wilderness survival cocoon, and in the summer of 2006, he headed into the wilderness of Southeast Alaska to test his invention. He wasn’t reported missing for a year. When authorities began searching for him, they learned a bus had dropped off Griffis along the Alaska Highway. He stopped at a lodge near the White River, where he left some of his gear and told people he planned to hike upriver to McCarthy, a small town in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. He was never seen again. Since Griffis had told friends he might spend the winter in Alaska, no one worried about him…

Robin Barefield

I am an Alaska wilderness mystery author and a podcaster: Murder and Mystery in the Last Frontier.