HIKER FOUND! Rescue crews locate hiker along Buffalo National River missing for several days

Clinton “Preston” Smith, 67, of Baton Rouge, La., did not return after hiking along the...
Clinton “Preston” Smith, 67, of Baton Rouge, La., did not return after hiking along the Hemmed-in-Hollow trail in Newton County.(ky3)
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 12:44 PM CDT
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COMPTON, Ark. (KY3) - Rescue crews located a hiker reported missing for days on a trail near the Buffalo National River.

Searchers found Clinton “Preston” Smith, 67, of Baton Rouge, La., near the river about 2.5 miles from the trail at 12:18 on Tuesday.

Rangers say Smith did not return after hiking the Hemmed-In Hollow trail in Newton County. Rangers believe he began his hike on Thursday.

“I was shocked at what I was hearing. You feel an emptiness,” said Kevin Lang, a friend of Smiths. “Just a real down-to-earth guy, A guy that anyone would be proud to call your friend.”

Searchers located his vehicle at the Hemmed-In Hollow trailhead near Compton.

“Friday evening was the initial call into my office. We got the park service involved from that point,” said Sheriff Glenn Wheeler over Newton County. “We started searching that evening and did some hasty searching that led into the next several days. Guess we’re on day five now.”

Through Monday, search crews utilized ground approach, K9 units, and aerial surveillance to try and locate Smith, all of which were unsuccessful before Tuesday.

“At 12:18 this afternoon, a team radioed in and said they’d had found him alive and was responsive,” said Wheeler. “Initially, it appeared that he did not have any serious injuries. He was responsive but also very sore, hungry, and dehydrated.”

Emergency crews are delivering first aid, food, and water to Smith. Sheriff Wheeler said he could talk to search crews and was evacuated with the help of a nearby group on the trail who gave up a horse for Smith to be lead out.

“Just a relief off of my shoulders when I found out I was still hesitant to believe it,” said Lang.

Searchers say they had walked the area where he was found. They believe he moved around, making it difficult to locate him.

“We won’t know him until we talk to him,” said Wheeler. “At this time, it was believed hiking alone. We’re not sure what may lead to him not returning. Those are all things we can’t confirm until we interview him once he’s been given medical attention and is in better condition.”

Sheriff Wheeler and his deputies were assisted by National Park Service, Arkansas State Police, and Mennonite Disaster Service members.

The terrain around Buffalo National River can be rugged and steep. Rangers say off-trail travel is often dangerous. You can obtain hiking information by contacting a park ranger at (870) 439-2502 or on the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/buff/planyourvisit/index.htm.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com