Badlands Guardian - Unique Places Around the World

Red Deer River running through the Alberta Badlands, near the Badlands Guardian.
Red Deer River running through the Alberta Badlands, near the Badlands Guardian.

The Badlands Guardian is a famous image of a human head said to be wearing aboriginal headgear and earphones. It can be seen by air above the Medicine Hat area in Alberta, Canada. Besides the belief that it is a geographic formation, there is a myth that ancient aliens formed it. The current threat to the Badlands Guardian is the drilling of natural gas in the area. The probability of it becoming a tourist destination is still low.

5. Description

The Badlands Guardian is an image with the semblance of a human head wearing indigenous Canadian headdress. The individual looks like to be wearing earphones and it faces west. The “face” measures 255 meters across and 225 meters in length. Apparently, the “earphones” are a road and an oil well built in its vicinity. For one to observe this geological feature, they have to see it from the air. Although the Indian head features a lot of humanoid characteristics, man cannot take credit for its formation. The reason for this is that no human being has ever been a part of its creation. The head of the image is a drainage feature resulting from rainwater erosion of the clay-rich soil surrounding it. Watching the image, one can see its mouth, nose, eye, and outlines of the eyebrow, neck, and shoulders. Some people have suggested that the image resembles ancient Mayan art. There’s a legend that states that ancient aliens may have been responsible for its formation. Whatever the case, the Badlands Guardian is the epitome of a geological wonder.

Lynn Hickox discovered the Badlands Guardian in 2016. She found the image while examining some images on Google Earth application. Hickox called the image “Indian Head.” However, later on, the Cypress County’s council changed its name to “Badlands Guardian.” Other suggested names included Pod God, iChief, The Listening Rock, Space Face, and Jolly Rocker among others. The Badlands Guardian is an example of a phenomenon called pareidolia. Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon which causes one to see an otherwise vague image as familiar. Apart from the Badlands Guardian, another such image was the image of the Virgin Mary that a Miami woman saw on an ordinarily grilled cheese sandwich. Some people also claim to see a picture of the Virgin Mary when they look at the moon.

4. Location

The Badlands Guardian is a geomorphological feature found near an urban center called Medicine Hat, also known as Gas City. Residents consider the town the sunniest place in Canada. It boasts a population of 56,000 people. The location of Medicine Hat is in Cypress County in Alberta, Canada. The Badlands image is at the border of the US and Canada. The land upon which the image sits is a piece of land leased by local ranchers called Norman and Shirley Freimark. The Badlands Guardian is a valley formed by erosion on a piece of sedimentary rock. The precise location of the Badlands Guardian on Google Earth is at the coordinates (50° 0'38.20"N, 110° 06' 48.32"W). The area covered by the Badlands Guardian is an arid land. It receives little but intense showers of rain. It has sparse vegetation and soft, clay soil.

3. Uniqueness

The Badlands Guardian is said to have been in existence for about 100 years. As much as it looks like a convex image, it is a concave feature. The image won the National TV short feature award in 2006 resulting from the short feature done by a reporter called Dale Hunter. The uniqueness of the picture comes in the sense that it had always been there yet no one ever saw it until 2016. It is also amazing how activities around it are beautifully orchestrated to make it look even more stunning. The human-made road, for example, brought out an unintended but outstanding look on the image. Due to the exploratory drilling taking place in the area, it is impossible to predict the future of the Badlands Guardian.

2. Threats

The Badlands Guardian mainly faces the threat of exploratory drilling. The area which resembles “earphones” on the head is a human-made road leading to an oil well. If oil mining continues there is a possibility that human activity will interfere with the Badlands Guardian image as we see it today. Initially, the image was just a human head with an aboriginal head cover. However, the earphones plunging right into the ear is a result of human influence. Another threat is the impossibility of a physical tourist destination. Tourist destinations typically enjoy funding which leads to improvement so that the states can collect revenue from it. The Badlands Guardian is not able to benefit from the privilege of government protection since it cannot be viewed from the ground. As such, it is not easy to convince the government to preserve its authenticity. As a result, the image may become blurred in the future.

1. Tourism

Although the Badlands Guardian could be a favorite tourist destination for many people, there is little tourism with regards to it. According to Mr. Lutz Perschon, Cypress County Manager, the image has a limited tourism potential since viewers can only see it from the air. On the ground, it is challenging to recognize anything unique about the place. Most tourists have become “online tourists” who read about Badlands Guardian’s story and are amazed by it. They can stare the images on the internet and can explore Google Earth to see the image for themselves. However, it is difficult to go further because a real tour of the area is not practical. Furthermore, there is no public access to the site which is a property owned by a family of ranchers.


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