Hiker dies in fall from cliff at Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness in UP

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A hiker has died after falling from a cliff in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan State Police said.

Troopers from the MSP Calumet Post were alerted to the incident around 12:15 p.m. Monday at the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness in Houghton County.

The Wild and Scenic Sturgeon River rushes out of the northern portion of this wilderness, over the 20 foot volcanic outcroppings of Sturgeon Falls, and through a gorge that reaches 350 feet in depth and a mile in width.

Multiple agencies responded, including the Laird Township Fire Department and Keweenaw Bay Tribal Police.

An investigation determined Douglas Brent Welker, 75, had slipped while hiking down a trail at the edge of a 20-foot cliff near the waterfall, state police said.

The Pelkie resident hit his head during the fall. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service website describes the area, which features the Sturgeon River, volcanic outcroppings and a 350-foot gorge, as "managed to protect and maintain resources in natural states."

"There are few established trails in Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, and the few overgrown logging roads are hard to find and follow," according to the website.

The incident this week follows other recent deaths at the state's scenic areas during the summer tourist season.

Last month, a 21-year-old Metro Detroit man fell to his death at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula, authorities said.

A Lincoln Park man stepped over a fence at the top of Miners Castle, lost his footing and fell about 100 feet, striking the cliff face and landing in Lake Superior, the National Park Service has said.

Also in July, police determined a man whose body was found at the base of Arch Rock on Mackinac Island had committed suicide.