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Remains of Professor Who Went Missing in Canyonlands National Park Found in Needles District


The Needles District in Canyonlands National Park is rugged and remote. NPS photo.

It was just about a year ago that a college professor headed into the remote backcountry of Canyonlands National Park to find his final resting place. His remains recently were discovered in the Needles District by another hiker.

Last May Jerry Wolff, a biology professor at St. Cloud State University, told rangers he was going on a four-day solo backcountry trek. When he didn't return on schedule, a search was launched in the park, and an investigation was mounted back at St. Cloud. That investigation turned up a note that led officials to fear the 65-year-old Wolff was going to commit suicide.

On March 18, another backcountry hiker found the professor's remains. Canyonlands officials say he died from a single gunshot to the head. His remains were identified through dental records.

The note Mr. Wolff left for his family said, "I am gone in a remote wilderness where I can return my body and soul to nature. There is no reason for anyone to look for me, just leave me where I am."


Ed: This comment was deleted out of respect for the relatives and friends of the suicide victim.

This is a sad story. I hope that when I am 65 years of age (in the not too distant future), that I will have more to live for, much more, than this poor fellow had, apparently. What a way to end one's life, all alone, in a beautiful but desolate canyon, with no one to mourn.

Believe me, you will likely have lots to live for well past 65. I am pushing 73, and life continues to be rewarding and challenging. In August my wife and I will celebrate 50 years of marriage. Keep active and involved. Remember, life and living are not necessarily one in the same. Living is what you do with life.

Ray Bane, I love your spirit and spunk...well said! In regards to Mr. Wolff, I'm sure his soul finally found true peace with nature...for nature is bliss.

Ray, thanks. - First Anonymous (if I keep coming back here, I may just have to get an ID!)

I was there when they were searching for him all those years ago and had hoped he had hid himself away so as not to be found.  Sorry he didn't find a cavern or hidey hole to remain where he wanted to be - Someone who loved him should cremate the remains and spread the ashes where he was found - privately and in secret.  I would.


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