Crashing cliff misses kayakers by only 50 feet

Cliff collapse caught on video

ALGER COUNTY, Mich. — A kayak tour guide in Michigan said he'll never paddle close to cliffs again, after a massive piece of a cliff crashed into Lake Superior, missing him and other kayakers by 50 feet. The astonishing collapse was caught on video.

"We thought we were at a safe distance. We got far away and then that came down," Van Ouellette-Vallas told WLUC.

Just before the sandstone cliff fell right in front of the group of kayakers, their guide said some smaller rocks had fallen. He was paddling away, and then a massive section fell into the lake. There were 18 kayakers in the group, but no one was injured.

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"I never thought I'd see that, hear it, smell it. All the things. I was just blown away," said Ouellette-Vallas.

Two professional nature photographers captured the moment.

"We really thought there were kayakers underneath because it blew out so far," said Jon Smithers.

"For this group to witness something this big, this geologic change in the face of the cliffs, and for us to be able to get a video of it at the same time from the drone is just an incredible coincidence," said Craig Blacklock.

Richard Ziegler, a geology professor at Northern Michigan University, explained that "the slope has been over-steepened by waves pounding away at the bottom of the slope. The slope becomes too steep. Gravity takes over and rock starts to fall."

"A lot of people think these rocks are really stable and they're really safe, but as we can see, that's not the case at all. I'm definitely not getting under these rocks again, that's for sure," said Ouellette-Vallas.