Badlands Guardian

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Black-and-white aerial photo of series of hills and valleys resembling a person wearing a headdress
Badlands Guardian in 1938, before the creation of the road that resembles the earphones

The Badlands Guardian is a geomorphological feature located near Medicine Hat in the southeast corner of Alberta, Canada. The feature was discovered in 2005 by Lynn Hickox through use of Google Earth.[1]


Viewed from the air, the feature has been said to resemble a human head wearing a full Indigenous type of headdress, facing directly westward. Additional man-made structures have been said to resemble a pair of earphones worn by the figure.[2][3] The apparent earphones are a road and an oil well, which were installed recently[when?] and are expected to disappear once the project is abandoned.[4]

The head is a drainage feature created through erosion of soft, clay-rich soil by the action of wind and water.[2][5] The arid badlands are typified by infrequent but intense rain-showers, sparse vegetation and soft sediments. The 'head' may have been created during a short period of fast erosion immediately following intense rainfall. Although the image appears to be a convex feature, it is actually concave – that is, a valley,[6][7] which is formed by erosion on a stratum of clay,[7] and is an instance of the Hollow-Face illusion. Its age is estimated to be in the hundreds of years at a minimum.[4]

In 2006, suitable names were canvassed by CBC Radio One program As It Happens. Out of 50 names submitted, seven were suggested to the Cypress County Council. They altered the suggested 'Guardian of the Badlands' to become Badlands Guardian.[5]

The Badlands Guardian was also described by the Sydney Morning Herald as a "net sensation".[2] PCWorld magazine has referred to the formation as a "geological marvel".[8] It is listed as the seventh of the top ten Google Earth finds by Time magazine.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Atlas Obscura names Alberta's 'Badlands Guardian' curious, hidden wonder | CBC News".
  2. ^ a b c Sydney Morning Herald Article by Stephen Hutcheon: "Gran's canyon is a net sensation" November 13, 2006
  3. ^ Randall Stross (23 September 2008). Planet Google: One Company's Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know. Free Press. pp. 142. ISBN 978-1-4165-8047-8. Retrieved 6 September 2013. The Badlands Guardian, for example, a natural geologic formation near Alberta, Canada, was often visited by online aviators. It resembles a human head, wearing Native American headdress—and also appears to be naturally adorned with ...
  4. ^ a b "The Badlands Guardian". Archived from the original on March 28, 2014.
  5. ^ a b CBC Radio: As It Happens "Alberta's Aztec Rocker?" (Includes taped interview with geology professor Dr. Froese)
  6. ^ As It Happens 3D rendering by CBC Radio[dead link]
  7. ^ a b c Dan Fletcher. "Top 10 Google Earth Finds: A Face in the Clay". Time.
  8. ^ PCWorld In Pictures: The Strangest Sights in Google Earth PC World Staff July 9, 2007 1:00 am

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°00′38.20″N 110°06′48.32″W / 50.0106111°N 110.1134222°W / 50.0106111; -110.1134222 (Badlands Guardian)