Nature Writer's Disappearance

He was happiest when he was all alone in the beauty of nature that he loved. He wrote poetry and in his diary about nature. He did watercolor paintings, woodcuts, sketches, and linoleum prints of landscapes and nature. He was born in 1914 and last seen in 1934. When he was last seen before he disappeared, he was 20 years old.

Everett Ruess was born into a family consisting of his father, his mother, and an older brother. At a very early age he was showing his artistic skills. His family lived in places like Chicago and New York, Los Angeles and Valparaiso, Indiana. He did drawings and wood carvings. He wrote poetry and essays. And he began a diary about his travels and thoughts.

Everett Ruess loved being out in nature. As soon as he was able, he set out to explore as much of the Southwestern United States as he could. Although he preferred being alone he worked with University of California archaeologists excavating near Kayenta. He took part in a Hopi ceremony and spoke Navajo. He traveled through the Sierras, Yosemite, and Sequoia. Usually his only companions were his burros. The wilderness was where he felt truly at home.

In 1934, Everett Ruess stopped in Escalante, Utah. He didn't stay long because he was headed out on the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail to the Colorado River. On his way he camped with a couple of sheepherders for a couple of nights then went on his way. He was never seen again. His burros were found near his camp but there was no trace of Everett.

Several theories about his disappearance are put forth. The most popular are that he was swept away by the Colorado River, that he married into and joined one of the Indian tribes of the area, and that he was killed by Indians.

In 2008 Everett's family was notified that a young Navajo man had come forward with the story that his grandfather had seen members of the Ute tribe attack and kill a young white man in the 1930's. The grandfather took the body and buried it and kept the whole thing secret for years.

Remains were recovered and DNA testing was done. The testing matched DNA with other members of the Ruess family. Everett had been found. But wait... After major news media printed the news that Everett had been found, the family reclaimed his remains. They were going to cremate him and put him with the remains of his brother. But for some reason they weren't sure. They decided to have a second DNA test run. It turns out that the original DNA testing was faulty. The remains were returned to an undisclosed burial site.

So what did happen to Everett Ruess? Was he killed by Indians? Did he stage his own disappearance? Was he  swept away by the wild waters of the Colorado River? Or did something else happen? He was barely 20 years old. He left behind a wealth of writings and artwork. He led an amazing life in a short time. What do you think happened to him?


Writer's Mystery Endures
The Mystery of Everett Ruess
Everett Ruess
Premature News Article
Everett Ruess Quotes


  1. what an interesting story, thank you for sharing it. I like some of his quotes

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Country Mouse. I was struck by the fact that at only 20 years of age this kid was so accomplished. Imagine what we could have if he had not disappeared.

  3. A young man, very adventurous. Maybe he attempted something too dangerous. Whatever happened the world lost someone special.

  4. whatever happened to him, I believe he disappeared happily for having strongly pursued the silence and beauty of nature where he felt the only world he knows and belongs.

  5. I agree with both of you. He was definitely someone special and he was last known to be out in nature where he was happiest. Thanks for your input.

  6. What an intriguing story. In 1934. I just couldn't imagine a tribe on Indians attacking a lone white man for no apparent reason. Unless, he had blended in with another tribe. During this time, Indians demanded that the white man shall not come into his country: shall not kill or drive off the game upon which his subsistence depends: and shall not separate him from his lands.

  7. Nice to hear from you, Lauren. If he was attacked by Indians, it was probably only two or three. I tend to discount the theory of him abandoning his way of life to become part of a tribe too. He kept a close link with his family so I think he would not have given that up. Still leaves a mystery though, doesn't it?


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