Missing angler found partially submerged in creek in North Routt

Denver geologist listed in critical condition in Denver hospital

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Courtesy of Routt County Search and Rescue

Craig Horlacher, 57, of Denver was found Thursday morning by Routt County Search and Rescue in extreme northern Routt County. Horlacher reportedly headed out to fish off Routt County Road 129 and Forest Service Road 497 either Friday or Saturday and had not been seen since.

— A 57-year-old man apparently stranded in the North Routt County wilderness for more than five days was found alive Thursday morning, partially submerged in a creek where he had been fishing.

Rescuers found Craig Hor­­lacher, of Wheat Ridge, less than half a mile from his car in a canyon at the confluence of the Middle Fork of the Little Snake River and Tennessee Creek, near the Wyoming border. Horlacher last was seen Friday afternoon when he asked Colorado Division of Wildlife officers about potential fishing spots.

Routt County Search and Rescue incident commander Jim Linville said it’s not clear why Horlacher was unable to get back to his car. Horlacher was conscious and breathing but disoriented when searchers found him at about 9:20 a.m. Thursday. Linville said Horlacher likely was suffering from hypothermia after being in the water and outside for several days. Temperatures Wed­nesday night dipped to about 46 degrees, Search and Rescue spokesman Darrel Levingston said.

Horlacher first was flown to Yampa Valley Medical Center and later transferred to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver. He was listed in critical condition late Thursday afternoon.

“Probably the big question for us now is he is only half a mile from his car, what happened to put him in that spot?” Levingston said.

Horlacher could not give rescuers any coherent answers during the rescue, Linville said. He did not appear to suffer any broken bones or other obvious physical injuries.

Levingston said rescuers used a rope system to pull Horlacher 200 vertical feet up the rocky canyon wall to a place where a Flight for Life helicopter could land. A Search and Rescue helicopter also ferried people and supplies to the area, which is near King Solomon Falls.

People who know Horlacher began wondering about his whereabouts Monday morning when he had not returned home in time for work. A neighbor who looks after Horlacher’s house reported him missing.

Horlacher is a principal geologist with the Pincock, Allen and Holt mine consulting company in Lakewood. Co-worker Terry Laverty helped the neighbor contact the Routt County Sheriff’s Office. Laverty said Horlacher does not have any family in the area and is originally from New Jersey.

Horlacher is a fly-fisher but does not typically travel to Routt County, Laverty said.

Routt County Sheriff’s Of­­fice deputies found Horlacher’s Subaru on Wednesday afternoon, and Search and Rescue volunteers were paged at about 6 p.m. Wednesday to begin the search. They continued searching until about 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Levingston said rescuers got within about 200 yards of where Horlacher eventually was found but that because it was dark, and he was unresponsive, they did not know he was there. Volunteers resumed searching Thursday morning and found Horlacher at about 9:20 a.m.

“From what we saw in the car, it looked like he took his fishing equipment and his waders. Everything else was in the car,” Levingston said. “He had gone grocery shopping; the stuff was still in the grocery bags. It looks like he went out for a little bit before he set up camp.”

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Comments

Scott Ford 3 years, 11 months ago

Knowing the area where Craig Horlacher got into trouble he is a man that count his blessings. This section of the canyon is steep and remote. It would not take much to get into trouble. It usually does not.

It is wonderful to do some solo fly-fishing occasionally, however, it is critical we tell someone where we are going and when we expect to return. This sounds simple but a lot of folks don't bother to do this simple thing that can save one's life. Thank goodness his neighbor noticed he was missing - his neighbor's action likely saved his life. Mr. Horlacher may have spent 5 to 6 days stuck in this canyon and perhaps even stuck in the creek.

I am thankful he is alive, He will be able tell us about his adventure in survival.

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snowbirds 3 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations, Search and Rescue, for a job very well done. Routt County is lucky to have an organization like your's to help make us feel safer while in our beautiful outdoors. Thanx again...

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 11 months ago

And goes to show how quickly a person can get so remote. Someone flyfishing a river might assume that there is going to be someone else also fishing that area at the very least in a day or two. That someone could be alone for 5 days flyfishing is a reminder that extreme wilderness can be closer than expected.

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