A visitor to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore captured footage of an enormous section of cliff face collapsing into Lake Superior. A nearly 200 foot section of sandstone cliff is shown disintegrating in the rare footage captured by visitors who happened to be on the water at the time. No one was injured by the falling rocks, but Jahn Martin, who captured the footage, was close enough to feel the dramatic waves caused by the fall.
Visitor footage captures cliff collapse
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and contains 40 miles of lakeshore on Lake Superior, including 15 miles of cliffs.
The park is named for the vibrant colors visible in these sandstone cliffs. Mineral seepage from iron, copper, manganese, and limonite create a wide variety of colors that can be seen from the water.
Footage of rock falls like the once captured by Martin is rare, but not because they are uncommon. In fact, the National Parks Service reports that they happen every year at Pictured Rocks.
Usually this happens in the Spring when temperatures are too cold for most visitors to venture out onto the lake and be in a position to observe.
Martin just happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture footage of something that is, while common enough, rarely seen by visitors to the park.
Park Service officials noted that collapses are an inherent risk when visitors approach the sandstone cliffs too closely.
A natural process
Park officials have not measured the exact amount of cliff face that collapse into the lake and they say that identifying the cause of this specific fall would be very difficult.
Generally the rock falls are a part of the natural process of erosion. On Lake Superior the sometimes extreme weather can exacerbate erosion.
Changes in temperature cause the porous rock to freeze and thaw alternatively, over time creating small cracks in the rocks that can lead to collapses of varying size.
Earlier this year footage was captured of a large portion of the famous White Cliffs of Dover collapsing into the English Channel. Weather is also thought to be a probable culprit in that case.
Erosion is ultimately what creates these dramatic cliff faces and for visitors there will always be an innate risk involved in getting too close to unstable sections.
Still, the National Parks Service hopes that visitors will not be discouraged from seeing Pictured Rocks and will appreciate the fact that this routine but rarely seen event was caught on camera.