Cliff Jumper Dies in the BWCA

The body of a man who was cliff jumping in the Boundary Waters has been recovered.  There aren’t many details regarding the incident but unfortunately he did not survive.  The incident was in Makwa Lake about 23 miles from Ely, Minnesota.

As an outfitter we tell people not to cliff jump in the BWCA but as a fellow paddler I’ll be honest and tell you we’ve done it before.  My idea of a cliff is different than most people’s ideas of a cliff and the only danger there is when I am contemplating a jump is that I’ll pee myself from fear.  We always make sure there are no submerged rocks anywhere near the area we’re jumping and I doubt we’ve jumped from a cliff higher than 10 feet.

When you’re out in the BWCA you need to use extreme caution because help is a long ways away. Our thoughts and prayers are with the survivors and family of this young man.

Body of Colorado man recovered from Boundary Waters

Emergency crews from Lake and St. Louis counties found 29-year-old Chase Winkey this morning, 20 feet below the surface of Makwa Lake.

By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune

A 29-year-old Colorado man dove from a popular cliff-diving spot in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Wednesday and never surfaced. Emergency crews from Lake and St. Louis counties found Chase Winkey this morning, 20 feet below the surface of Makwa Lake. His body was sent to the medical examiner in Hibbing for an autopsy.

Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson said Winkey was staying on nearby Little Saganaga Lake in a party of four people who were jumping off a cliff that is known for diving. The cliff is about 60 feet high and the water is deep. Johnson said Winkey may have landed awkwardly and had the wind knocked out of him. He said his brother was watching from a canoe when Winkey dove.

The other three people found another group that had a satellite phone. Lake County Search and Rescue team members received word about the accident at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Crews from both counties were dispatched immediately on two Beaver seaplanes to reach the lake. They used St. Louis County’s remote-controlled submersible camera to locate Winkey this morning, Johnson said.

Johnson said he viewed YouTube videos of diving at Makwa and said some people dove with lifejackets on, a practice he recommended. Winkey was not wearing a jacket.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Search and Rescue, U.S. Forest Service and St. Louis County Search and Rescue were on the scene.

Makwa Lake is in the heart of the federal wilderness area, about 35 miles northeast of Ely. It’s considered a daytrip lake from lake sites off the Gunflint Trail.