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Sheriff releases details of investigation into man's death

Body recovered from Missouri River in Fergus County
Posted at 8:32 AM, Jun 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-21 10:32:51-04

Fergus County Sheriff Ryan Peterson on Tuesday released details about the investigation into the death earlier this month of Jim Kurz of Ladysmith, Wisconsin.

Sheriff Peterson said in a news release that Kurz, 78 years old, arrived at the James Kipp Campground on June 5th and began paddling upstream. He arrived at Heller Cabin and logged an entry in the guestbook on June 6th, noting the "tough paddling" and saying he was waiting for the wind to change before heading to Gist Cabin.

On June 7th, Kurz met a paddler named Bill Burke, who had started his journey along the river in Three Forks on May 22nd. Kurz and Burke exchanged stories about canoeing and took photos for each other.

Photo of James Kurz taken by Bill Burke

Sheriff Peterson says that Burke told Kurz that he needed to resupply before continuing past Kipp campground. Kurz told Burke that he could use Kurz's car that was parked at the Kipp boat ramp to make a supply run to Malta.

On the afternoon of June 7th, Kurz set up camp near the Missouri River and Bull Creek. Sheriff Peterson said there were severe storms that day, and investigators believe that at some point, Kurz's canoe broke loose from the shore and Kurz tried to retrieve it.

Sheriff Peterson said, "We believe Jim and his canoe did not make it back to camp."

Kurz's body was found in the river on June 11th several miles downstream from Kipp campground; the cause of death was determined to be drowning.

Sheriff Peterson noted that after learning of Kurz's death, Burke referred to him as "River Angel Jim."

The obituary in Ladysmith News says that Kurz was a medical researcher and college professor, and enjoyed canoeing in addition to many other outdoor activities: "He was an avid environmentalist and outdoorsman, enjoying hunting, fishing, and especially canoeing. He took solo trips by canoe from his backyard on the Flambeau River all the way to Montana and the middle of Ontario, Canada."


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