71-Year-Old Missing Hiker Found Alive in Zion National Park

by Matthew Memrick

A 71-year-old missing hiker was found alive in Utah’s Zion National Park after four days.

On Tuesday, John Fiske Burg left his Kanab hotel, and authorities determined he hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail. National Park Service officials said Burg stayed at a La Quinta hotel with 50 hikers and expressed his desire to hike that trail.

According to Fox 13, his group said the man was past due on returning to the hotel on Wednesday. 

Officials said Burg was wearing a light yellow shirt, a backpack with a two-way radio, and a white visor hat with hanging neck covering.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending with Burg. Dave Nally, who authored a book titled “Deaths and Rescues in Zion National Park,” adds some context with his research. He said there had been 15 deaths at the park, with 13 coming at Angels Landing. 

Jeff Rose, a University of Utah professor, said those Zion National Park deaths came from insufficient hiking preparations. Victims did not have the proper footwear, among other things.

According to PSBlaw, there were 2,727 deaths at U.S. National Parks sites from 2007 to 2018. Men make up 81 percent of the deaths, while women were 19 percent of fatalities at these parks. Of the deaths from that period, 335 came from slips and falls along the trail. Drownings made up the top group with 668 deaths.

Weather Conditions Ideal

Burg may have been fortunate this time of year.

According to hikers, the Zion National Park is good weather hiking from September to October. One website said the crowds are fewer with optimal hiking conditions. The average high is 91 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 degrees for the low, with only four average days of rain in September.

Officials closed the trail this week with a search and rescue plan for the man in the area. Other closed areas included Pine Creek, Spry Canyon, Keyhole Canyon, and Lodge Canyon.

National Park Service said Burg called 911 on Friday. He left a voicemail with his family as well. On Saturday, Nellis Air Force Base personnel from Las Vegas found the man above Lodge Canyon around 3:30 p.m.

“The 911 call he made was critical and saved his life,” an NPS press release stated. NPS officials said a Zion National Park tipline that they set up was also crucial in the search. 

Last year, Zion National Park averaged 391,538 visitors in October and 476,783 in September, so the tipline would make a difference in hikers observing the man’s tracks.

Burg got some treatment at the scene before leaving for a St. George hospital for additional medical help. Officials did not say more about the treatment.

The NPS was also thankful to the Nellis Air Force Base and other outside agencies that helped in the Zion National Park rescue.

“This successful rescue would not have been possible without the network of individuals and resources,” the announcement said.