On March 3, 2019, search efforts began in the Glacier Gorge area of Rocky Mountain National Park for James Pruitt, 70, of Etowah, Tennessee. After a vehicle parked at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead was determined to belong to Pruitt Sunday morning, March 3, rangers contacted Pruitt’s family in Tennessee. His family confirmed he was in the area and hadn’t been heard from since Thursday morning, February 28, at approximately 10 am.
On March 15, it was announced that the broad scale search for Pruitt has officially been suspended. Pruitt’s disappearance is the first in Rocky Mountain National Park to occur during 2019.
More than two feet of snow accumulated in the Glacier Gorge area between Thursday, February 28 and Sunday, March 3. That significant snowfall in mountainous terrain added to the challenge of search efforts, making finding clues to Pruitt’s whereabouts even more difficult.
Active search efforts took place March 3 through March 9. The overall search area encompassed approximately 15 square miles and included the Glacier Gorge drainage, the Loch Vale drainage, and the Glacier Creek drainage. Searchers concentrated efforts in the heavily forested areas near Bear Lake and the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, the Nymph Lake area, Chaos Creek area, the Alberta Falls area, Lake Haiyaha, Mario’s Gully east of Lake Haiyaha and the winter trails to Mills Lake and The Loch. Off snow-packed trails, searchers encountered chest deep snow in numerous areas.
Assisting Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members has been Larimer County Search and Rescue, Rocky Mountain Rescue based in Boulder County, Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Alpine Rescue Team, numerous dog teams from Larimer County Search and Rescue, Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States, and the Colorado Search and Rescue Board. On Tuesday, March 5, a multi-mission aircraft (MMA) from the State of Colorado assisted efforts with fixed-wing aerial reconnaissance over Sky Pond, Lake Haiyaha, Flattop Mountain and Bierstadt Lake.
James Pruitt is still a missing person and our investigation will continue in hopes of gaining further information as to his plans on the day of his disappearance. Park rangers would like to hear from anyone who was in the Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake areas between Thursday, February 28 and March 3, or who may have had contact with Pruitt during his other hikes leading up to February 28. Pruitt may be wearing a blue jacket, red or orange hat and microspikes on hiking boots. Please call Rocky Mountain National Park at (970) 586-1204.