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Lost Hiker Found Safe in Ouachita National Forest

By Sam Jordan & Staff Reporters

(MENA) What started out to be a day hike turned out to be an incredible story of survival!

Joshua McClatchy of Texas was rescued late Friday night about four miles off the Buckeye Trail in Southeast Polk County after a six day search.

Rescuers, who had to sprint down a 2.7 mile route and then roped down a dangerous mountain to rescue him, Crews finally reached McClatchy at 11:44pm Friday night.

Speaking later from his hospital bed, McClatchy described the ordeal as hundreds of miracles:”

McClatchy set out on a solo hike on the Buckeye Trail in Southeast Polk County on Saturday, June first. He told authorities he was looking for an adventure to celebrate his 38th birthday.   

Apparently, McClatchy became disoriented, and then lost. He texted his mother saying that he needed help. McClatchy’s cell phone data gave rescuers critical clues to narrow down the search area. Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer says the area is remote, rocky, and dangerous:”

Sheriff Sawyer was finally able to get the use of an Arkansas National Guard helicopter for a few hours on Friday night, as the Guard has been overwhelmed with flooding issues around the state. After McClatchy was initially spotted, the copter had to go and refuel, before the rescue operation began.

The chopper was equipped with FLIR technology to detect body heat, and finally spotted McClatchy through the dense canopy of trees about 9pm. McClatchy was heading North and once he was spotted, Chief Deputy Randy Jewell, US Forest Service Joe Liles, and Arkansas Game and Fish Officer Ray Hines gathered up a team and was guided to the area.

McClatchy’s rescue took 3-1/2 hours to get him off the mountain and then carry him back out to the trailhead.

McClatchy, was reunited with family and appeared to be both dehydrated and weak Relatives say that McClatchy is now resting and doing well. Several local and state agencies participated during the six day search for the lost hiker that had a happy ending on Friday night.   

Law Enforcement Officers, firefighters, Office of Emergency Services Search and Rescue, Game and Fish, State Parks, and multiple other agencies from around the region all participated in the successful search for McClatchy.

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