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The Badlands Guardian: A Natural Geological Formation In Alberta

Posted on June 25, 2024 by Nerissa McNaughton

Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Alberta near the town of Walsh lies a fascinating geological marvel known as The Badlands Guardian. Also affectionately known as “the Earth’s ear” by some, is not a man-made sculpture or monument but rather a natural geological formation.

Unfortunately, the phenomenon is not visible from ground level and there is no public access to the site that is best viewed from satellite images.

Viewed from far above the Earth’s surface, this feature strikingly resembles a human head wearing a full Indigenous headdress, complete with what appears to be earbuds. This resemblance is purely coincidental, formed by the erosive powers of rainwater on clay-rich soil layers over millennia. The “earbuds” that give the formation a modern twist are, in fact, a now grown over dirt road and a oil well, adding an amusing or tragic element to the scene, depending on one’s perspective.

The Badlands Guardian was sculpted by natural erosive processes. Rainwater, flowing down through layers of clay-rich soil, carved out the contours of what from above looks like a human face. This type of erosion is typical in this area, where soft rock formations are easily worn away by water, creating intricate and often beautiful landscapes.

Unlike ancient monuments, which were found through physical exploration, The Badlands Guardian was discovered in 2006 by Lynn Hickox while browsing Google Earth. Its large scale and the fact that it is only visible from an aerial view meant that it had remained unnoticed by ground observers.

The Badlands Guardian can be best appreciated from the air, making helicopter tours an ideal way to experience this natural spectacle. For those who prefer to stay grounded, exploring the surrounding badlands area offers a wealth of beautiful landscapes and geological formations. While you won’t be able to see the Guardian’s face from the ground, the region’s unique topography and rich history provide plenty for adventurers to discover.

Before setting out to explore The Badlands Guardian and its surroundings, there are a few things to keep in mind. The area is remote, and amenities may be limited, so plan accordingly.

Respect the natural environment; stick to established paths and leave no trace. Consider the weather and prepare for changes, as the badlands can be quite exposed.

The Badlands Guardian stands as a great example of nature’s artistry, captivating not only for its appearance but for the serendipitous manner of its discovery. It reminds us of the power of perspective and the endless surprises our planet has in store!

Nerissa McNaughton is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the Great West Media & Southern Alberta Newspapers Hot Summer Guide advertising feature. The Hot Summer Guide is a special feature about summer activities, bucket list adventures, staycation options, road trips, attractions, events, and road trip-worthy food & beverage destinations across Alberta. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.

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