New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents in the Adirondacks. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured or distressed people from the Adirondack backcountry.
What follows is a report, prepared by DEC, of recent missions carried out by Forest Rangers in the Adirondacks.
Town of North Hudson
Call for Assistance: On June 27 at 11 am, the International Emergency Response Center (IERC) notified Ray Brook Dispatch of a personal locator beacon (PLB) activated by a U.S. Forest Service employee working in Essex County. PLBs use satellite communication to notify the IERC that the owner of the unit is in distress. Three Forest Rangers responded to the reported coordinates near Boreas Ponds, roughly 7.5 miles from a public highway. By 1:40 pm, the Rangers found the Forest Service employee, who had gotten his vehicle stuck on a forest road but had no radio or cell phone service. Once the vehicle was freed, the employee was able to drive without further assistance.
Town of Keene
Rescue: On July 2, eight DEC Forest Rangers were called to rescue a 33-year-old Fort Drum woman with a lower leg injury on Cascade Mountain Trail. A DEC Backcountry Steward had discovered the injured woman and determined that her extraction would require a significant number of rescuers due to steep, wet trail conditions. Once Rangers were on the scene, the complexities of the rescue required a helicopter extraction. Within two hours of the initial call, the subject was at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake.
Town of Keene
Search: On July 4 at 8:47 am, Ray Brook received a transferred call from Saratoga County 911 with a caller reporting her boyfriend was overdue from a hike. The caller was uncertain of the hiker’s intended itinerary, so a broad search of potential trailheads was conducted. Contact with family members determined that the individual was parked at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve parking area. The trail register indicated he intended to hike Dial and Nippletop mountains as a day hike. Rangers searched drainages and herd paths in the area of Dial and Nippletop throughout the night. New York State Police Lake Clear Aviation with a Forest Ranger crew flew over and searched these mountains with negative results. Investigations revealed the point last seen (PLS) was the summit of Nippletop Mountain at approximately 3:30 pm on July 3. On July 5, 18 Forest Ranger staff searched areas from Nippletop Mountain to Elk Lake and areas around the AuSable Lakes. State Police responded to the AuSable Club with a communications van and investigators worked with AT&T to attempt to get more information from the subject’s cell phone usage. State Police Aviation inserted Ranger crews into remote locations for search assignments. The rough terrain and topography required communication coordination via Ray Brook Dispatch on four radio towers on four peaks – Whiteface, Blue, Gore and Belfry. At 10:11 am, Rangers on an assignment north of Elk Lake located the man and reported that he was in good health and would be walking out with them to Elk Lake. He was out of the woods by 12:40 pm. The subject’s gear and level of preparedness lent to his withstanding two unplanned nights in the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area.
Town of Wilmington
Recovery: On July 3, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County 911 requesting Forest Rangers respond to the Flume area on the AuSable River in the town of Wilmington for a missing individual. Upon arrival, Rangers worked with the Wilmington Fire Department to post lookouts and plan recovery efforts for a male from Ithaca who had been swimming in the flumes when he failed to resurface due to the high water, strong currents, and increased turbulence due to recent rain in the area. Forest Rangers specially trained in swift water rescues and the New York State Police Dive Team implemented a technical rope system across the flumes to support recovery efforts. Various techniques were used to locate the subject, including overnight lookouts, in the event the subject was pushed out of the currents and continued down river. On July 4 at 2:16 pm, the individual was located deceased by searchers and extricated from the gorge by a technical rope system.
Town of Saranac Lake
Search/Recovery: On July 6 at 7:59 am, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Franklin County 911 requesting assistance in attempting to locate a 66-year-old male who went kayaking the previous night on Kiwassa Lake. Rangers worked with the Saranac Lake Fire Department, New York State Police, NYSP Aviation Lake Clear, and a DEC Environmental Conservation Officer. Rangers initially completed land searches and interviewed campers in the area. Clues indicated that the individual was in the water and the New York State Police Dive Team responded. A Forest Ranger UAS (drone) was utilized in the search, as well. At 11:26 am on July 9, the NYSP Dive Team located the subject deceased and submerged using their side scan sonar.
Town of Caroga
Rescue: On July 1, DEC Forest Rangers Michael Thompson and John Ploss responded to a 911 call reporting a man with a head injury on Ferris Lake Wild Forest near Nine Corners Lake. As both Rangers worked with local rescue personnel to hike in, they discovered that the 19-year-old Johnstown man had suffered a significant injury from a 10-foot fall. The teen was jumping from one boulder to the next when he lost his balance and fell. The seriousness of his injuries required a helicopter Med Flight to a local hospital for further care.
Town of Indian Lake
Rescue: On July 2, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Hamilton County 911 requesting Rangers to rescue a 22-year-old Oswego woman with a lower leg injury at the popular OK Slip Falls. Three Forest Rangers worked with local firefighters and emergency medical services to evacuate the woman. Once out of the woods, she was able to seek further treatment.
Town of Wells
Recovery: On July 3 at 2:55 pm, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the DEC Sacandaga Campground requesting emergency assistance for an unconscious male in the Sacandaga River. Ray Brook Dispatch advised the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and dispatched four Forest Rangers. Rangers responded with an airboat and began searching the river from the Northville boat launch. At 3:49 pm, the subject was located in a Class 3 river rapids area only accessible by water. Ranger Airboat AB-53 responded to the location, where Rangers entered the water and recovered the deceased subject. The 64-year-old male had gone tubing without a personal floatation device (PFD), along with five other people. After riding strong currents for approximately 300 yards, he attempted to get to shore but was swept under and did not recover.
Town of Blue Mountain Lake
Rescue: At 5:38 pm on July 9, a radio call came into DEC Ray Brook Dispatch from the Blue Mountain Summit Steward about a 16-year-old female with an ankle injury on the summit of Blue Mountain. The subject did not feel she could make it back down the mountain and asked for rescue assistance. Forest Ranger Jason Scott was dispatched to the scene. By using the radio transmitter maintenance road, Ranger Scott accessed the top of the mountain near the injured subject with his four-wheel-drive patrol vehicle. Ranger Scott gave medical attention to the hiker on scene. The hiker and three family members were transported to the trailhead, where Blue Mountain Lake Ambulance Squad was staged to provide additional medical care and transportation to the hospital.
Town of Webb
Wildland Rescue: On June 28, Ray Brook Dispatch was notified by Herkimer County 911 that a hiker had suffered an ankle injury on Bald Mountain. A woman from South Carolina was near the summit and unable to proceed back to the trailhead. Rangers Bob Coscomb, Sarah Geesler, and Gary Miller assisted local fire and rescue to carry the woman off the mountain. Within two hours, she was transported to a waiting ambulance.
Town of Diana
Wildland Search: Forest Rangers continue to assist the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department in the ongoing search for 24-year-old Kenneth McCall, of Homer, near Jadwin Memorial State Forest. On June 26, five Rangers worked with two K-9 units from the NYS Federation of Search and Rescue Teams throughout the primary search area without success. DEC drones (unmanned aerial systems, or ‘UAS’) were used to intensely search areas of high probability from the air. To date, 11 Rangers have aided in the search over the last nine days.
Town of Greig
Rescue: At 11:01 am on July 7, Forest Rangers received a call direct from Lewis County 911 regarding a female thrown from her horse on the Otter Creek Horse Trails. The horse became spooked by a deer and bucked the rider from the saddle into a nearby tree. Forest Rangers responded to the scene and provided medical care for back and neck injuries. The rider was then carried to a private residence, where a helicopter picked her up for transport to a hospital.
Town of Fort Ann
Search: On July 4 at 5:05 pm, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiking party that became separated on Buck Mountain. The reporting party of three had made it down to the trailhead, but the remaining two subjects had not been seen since they summited. Ray Brook established cell phone contact with the two missing females and obtained coordinates through their phone. Two Forest Rangers responded, made voice contact with the subjects, and brought them to the trailhead, where they were reunited with their companions.
Town of Hague
Search: On July 6 at 9:05 pm, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a direct call about three subjects overdue from an outing near Jabe Pond in Hague. The three males, ages 50, 27, and 10, left their Hudson Falls home at 6 am with plans to take a canoe on Jabe Pond and scout the area in search of deer tracks for the next hunting season. The group planned to return home by 3 pm. Rangers responded and located the subjects’ vehicle. A ground search was initiated and a canoe believed to belong to the subjects was located. The immediate area was checked with negative results and the search area was expanded. Three Rangers continued a ground search throughout the night. At 5:25 am on the July 7, Rangers located the three lost individuals on the west side of Middle Mountain in good health and guided them back to their boat on Jabe Pond. By 8 am, the three explorers were back to their vehicle and headed home.
Town of Bolton
Rescue: At 1:05 pm on July 6, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker reporting a male with a knee injury on Thomas Mountain in the town of Bolton. Forest Rangers responded, assessed, and splinted the subject’s leg injury and helped carry out the injured hiker. At 2:15 pm, the individual was returned to the trailhead where the Bolton Ambulance Squad transported him to a local hospital for further medical care.
Be Prepared: Properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. The Adirondack Almanack reports weekly Outdoor Conditions each Thursday afternoon.