Video: Pictured Rocks cliff shearing off into Lake Superior
Aug 14, 2019 05:38AM
By Emily Bingham of mlive.com - August 14, 2019
A drone photographer got the shot of a lifetime near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore this week, when his camera captured footage of a section of the park’s sheer cliffs crashing dramatically into Lake Superior below.
Jon Smithers, a nature and wildlife photographer from Saint Peter, Minn. had been piloting a drone from a pontoon boat just outside park boundaries with fellow photographer Craig Blacklock on Monday, Aug. 12 when the two heard a loud bang. Smithers turned his drone toward the sound just in time to see a huge rock shelf crumbling down and hitting the lake in an explosion of dust and water.
“I was really shocked,” Smithers said. “I had never seen anything like that before.”
The section of lakeshore where the crash happened is heavily trafficked this time of year by kayakers seeking close-up views of the park’s namesake sandstone cliffs. And in fact, a group of kayakers can be seen in the Smithers’ drone video, sitting in the water unnervingly close to the crash.
Van Ouellette-Ballas, a guide with Northern Waters Adventures in Munising, was one of those kayakers. He had been out on the water, leading a group kayak outing, when he noticed a small rock tumble into the water nearby. He paddled a bit farther away, and a minute later, watched in awe with his group as the subsequent huge chunk of rock -- the size of two vans, Ouellette-Ballas said -- fell into the water, covering the entire group and their boats with dust and dirt.
“That entire shelf just fell off right in front of our eyes,” he said. “It was just really incredible. The aroma of old dirt was just ridiculous. Honestly that was as cool as seeing it fall.”
According to Ouellette-Ballas, the piece of cliff that fell was located near a point known among kayakers as “Turnaround Rock.”
Sue Reece, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s chief of interpretation, said the sandstone cliffs that make the park so visually spectacular are also prone to erosion, leading to “releases” like this one from time to time. Small releases happen as often as every year -- usually in the spring, as the soil thaws -- with bigger releases happening about once every five years.
“It’s just one of the risks with sandstone; it’s very soft and always eroding," she said. “But it’s rare to catch it on film.”
Reece said that the hiking trail that skirts the edge of the cliffs is inspected every spring and moved inland as needed, away from areas that may be more prone to erosion, and that visitors shouldn’t be alarmed.
“It’s pretty rare for someone to catch something like that on film, that’s how uncommon it is on a day-to-day basis,” she said.
Still, though, some Pictured Rocks paddlers might be steering a little farther out from the cliffs for a while.
“It was a really big wake-up call,” Ouellette-Ballas said. “I was 20 seconds away from getting completely smashed. I’m pretty excited to still be here.”
To see the original article and read related stories, follow this link to the mlive.com website. https://www.mlive.com/life/2019/08/video-shows-pictured-rocks-cliff-shearing-off-into-lake-superior....
Watch the Pictured Rocks cliff collapse here