The recent deaths of two women during a rafting excursion in a remote river highlights not only how dangerous Alaska's wilderness can be, but also how limited resources are in the nation's largest state.

The women's families are questioning why it took so long for help to arrive.

Alaska National Guard officials point to the vastness of the state and say last week's response mission involved military aircraft from as far away as Anchorage.

Officials also point to unforeseen complications, including time lost after a rescue crew member's medical emergency that forced responders to turn around. An earlier response launched in an Army helicopter had to be scrapped after the crew realized the location was much farther than originally thought.

Sixty-nine-year-old Cheryl Minnehan of Elk Grove, California, and 67-year-old Karen Todd of Sparks, Nevada, died June 15 after their raft overturned during a guided excursion on the Kongakut River in the state's North Slope.