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Pictured Rocks cliff collapses near kayakers in Lake Superior

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 8/14/2019 Emma Keith
a view of a large rock © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

MUNISING – Kayakers on a tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in northern Michigan narrowly escaped injury when a large section of cliff collapsed near them into Lake Superior.

The cliffs near the kayakers stand about 200 feet tall, making for a "pretty fantastic" collapse, according to Sue Reece, Pictured Rocks' chief of interpretation. 

Van Ouellette-Ballas of Northern Waters Adventures, one of the kayak guides, says smaller rocks had fallen near the group Monday before the massive section fell.

He says they "thought we were at a safe distance" and were paddling away when the large collapse missed them by about 50 feet.

Replay Video

MLive.com reports nature photographers Jon Smithers and Craig Blacklock were on a boat and Smithers turned a drone toward the sounds of the collapse in time to record video of it

Reece told the Free Press the park doesn't necessarily have a recommendation for how far kayakers or boaters should stay from the cliffs, but if these kayakers had been 100 feet closer, results could have been "catastrophic." 

Because Pictured Rocks' cliffs are made of sandstone, Reece said they're easily eroded, and can be undercut by wind or rain. While large collapses don't happen often, the cliffs often erode with spring thaw. 

This collapse didn't appear to harm a nearby hiking trail, but Reece said the parks service does reevaluate and move trails if they're too close to eroded areas. 

Reece said she does urge hikers to be careful, since the cliffs' texture can make them like a sandy beach. Staying on trail and fighting the urge to get too close to the edge is key to safety, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Pictured Rocks cliff collapses near kayakers in Lake Superior

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