Oregon man missing after boating on Lake Aleknagik Friday

Sep 9, 2020

 George Van Vleet, 63, was first reported missing on Friday around 5 p.m. He was on a trip with his brother, Matt Van Vleet, and their friend, Greg Williams. 

George Van Vleet.
Credit Courtesy of Matt Van Vleet

An Oregon man visiting Wood-Tikchik State Park is missing. George Van Vleet, 63, was first reported missing on Friday around 5 p.m. He was on a trip with his brother, Matt Van Vleet, and their friend, Greg Williams. 

Matt says his brother was last seen that afternoon leaving the Aleknagik boat ramp in a skiff on his way to bring gear to their cabin in Bear Bay, on the south side of the lake. His skiff was found unmanned in the middle of the lake, less than four miles from the landing. 

The Van Vleet brothers have been visiting Dillingham and Aleknagik regularly for more than 25 years.  Williams, their friend, has visited with them nine times over the last 12 years. He says George was likely lost about a third of the way across the lake.

“The cabin is back in Bear Bay. He was coming back out of Bear Bay over to the boat launch — we don’t know exactly but it looked like he had cleared Bear Bay and was out in the center part of the lake — we usually man pretty much a direct line between the boat launch and Bear Bay.”

Williams says Alaska State Troopers conducted a search by land, air and water. The search lasted late into the night, and it resumed the next day at dawn. 

Troopers suspended the search Saturday afternoon due to poor visibility and safety concerns from an incoming storm.

Matt Van Vleet waited ashore with Greg. He says he was deeply grateful to everyone who has helped search for George.

“My brother’s wife, his best friend Greg, who was with us at the lake at the time, and really all who loved him," said Van Vleet. "I wanted to thank the entire Aleknagik community for all you’ve done in the search and to help us in our time of need. I’d especially like to thank Trooper [Craig] Markowitz and Park Ranger Alison Eskelin and Mike Weagley and his crew. They did outstanding work in searching for my brother and Sherol Mershon from Silver Fin [Bed and Breakfast] who really was like an angel for us and helped us through the initial part of all of this and still continues to.”  

Van Vleet and Williams both remember George as a kind man. 

“George had a big personality, and he was the sort of person when he would enter a room he would lift the spirits of everyone there. Almost every guy I knew of spoke of George as his best friend,” said Williams.

“My brother was the kind of guy who would give his shirt off his back to almost anybody, and he’s also the kind of guy that would really light up a room when he came in, and he was a very happy and positive person," Van Vleet said. "But his favorite place in the entire world was Aleknagik and on the lake and fishing and camping and spending time around Dillingham and the area." 

Van Vleet was last seen wearing a black jacket and jeans. Anyone with information should contact the Alaska State Troopers at (907) 842-5461

Correction: This article originally misspelt Sherol Mershon's name as Cheryl Marshon. It has now been corrected. 

Contact the author at brian@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.