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Body of hiker missing near Corbett found in Sandy River

Christopher Smaka, 53, went out on a hike in the area July 11. His clothes and shoes were found on the banks of the Sandy River the next day.
Credit: KGW

CORBETT, Ore. — The body of a hiker who went missing along the Sandy River south of Corbett last week has been found, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) announced Tuesday.

Christopher Smaka, 53, was reported missing on July 12 after he did not return from a planned day hike, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). Smaka lived on his own, but had told his partner and friends the day prior that he was heading out to hike in the Gordon Creek area. He was last heard from around 8:30 a.m. that day.

When he didn't check back in by 24 hours later, Smaka's partner called police around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The sheriff's office described Smaka as an experienced hiker and mushroom picker. His car was found at a trailhead along Southeast Gordon Creek Road near Corbett around 11 a.m.

Credit: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office
DMV photo of Christopher Smaka, stitched with a photo of MCSO search-and-rescue volunteers deploying to the trailhead where Smaka's car was found.

Search teams followed the trail about two miles down to the Sandy River, where they found some of Smaka's belongings and his shoes along the banks. It's believed that he took them off and went into the river somewhere near Oxbow Regional Park.

Search-and-rescue teams began using kayaks and drones to comb the Sandy River around the spot where the missing man's belongings were discovered, ranging from Oxbow to Dodge Park.

"A lot of times, in the hot weather this time of year, people underestimate the Sandy River significantly," said MCSO's head search-and-rescue coordinator Sgt. Brian Gerkman. "It is still very cold, it's glacier melt — people will see that it looks low and clear, and that river still moves pretty rapidly and it's very cold."

Teams from both the Multnomah County and Clackamas County search-and-rescue units were working to find Smaka on July 12, Gerkman said. There were about 25 searchers involved during the day's efforts, but the search was suspended for the night without finding Smaka. 

The search resumed the next day. Members of CCSO's dive team conducted an underwater search of the Sandy River and crews deployed search dogs into the field, but they did not find Smaka. By the end of the day, search and rescue coordinators decided to suspend the search operation entirely.

CCSO announced Tuesday that Smaka's body was found Monday, July 18, after a 911 caller reported seeing a body in the river. That night, rescue crews from Clackamas Fire and Sandy Fire rafted to the area from Dodge Park to recover the body, which was floating in a "deep-pool section" of the Sandy River. It was just across the river from where searchers had found Smaka's belongings on July 12.

Smaka's body was taken by raft to Oxbow Park, arriving there around 9:15 p.m. CCSO said his body was then turned over to the Clackamas County Medical Examiner’s Office for formal identification.

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