Calgary

Atlas Obscura names Alberta's 'Badlands Guardian' curious, hidden wonder

The curious Alberta site has been named in a new book called Atlas Obscura because it can only be seen from way up in the sky.

Geological formation can only be seen from above by plane or satellite image

The unique geological formation was discovered a decade ago on Google Earth by Lynn Hickox of Gravelbourg, Sask. (Google Earth)

This story was originally published Sept. 22.


Thousands of years of erosion have left southern Alberta with a spectacular geological formation that you can only see if you're a bird, a plane or Superman.

Everyone else will have to rely on good ol' Google Maps:

  1. Search "Badlands Guardian"
  2. Click on the earth view option
  3. Zoom out of the satellite image
  4. Tah dah!

The Badlands Guardian is located about 300 kilometres southeast of Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum. (Google Maps)

It's a hidden wonder, all right, and mind blowing enough to be named one of the most curious places in the world by the new book Atlas Obscura.

'That looks rather strange'

It was a Canadian who first discovered the oddity. 

Lynn Hickox of Gravelbourg, Sask. stumbled upon it 10 years ago on Google Earth while she was "looking for the dinosaur museum in Drumheller." (For the record, the Badlands Guardian is located about 300 kilometres southeast of the Royal Tyrrell Museum.)

"I'd only just downloaded the Google Earth program there a couple of days before. I wasn't 100 per cent sure how to use it," Hickox told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.

"I was just sort of panning around in that southern Alberta vicinity and I just happen to see it in the hills and I thought, you know, that looks rather strange."

She figured out how to pin it, and named it "Indian Head" because of its uncanny resemblance to a First Nations chief wearing a traditional headdress.

The face is located on private land in Cypress County and the county's council later renamed it the Badlands Guardian.

Thousands of years of erosion have left southern Alberta with a spectacular geological formation that can only be seen from above. (Google Maps)

Is he jamming to music?

Is it a he?

Is it an alien?

There is no right answer, and a decade after Hickox put the mysterious head on the digital map — the online world is still weighing in.

Some have even suggested it's wearing headphones, an illusion created by a country road that leads right into its ear.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener