"Indian Heads" and other humanoid rocks


Credit: Ranger Rick magazine (National Wildlife Federation) / Leen van der Slik - Earth Scenes

I sometimes get a curiosity itch and I am wondering how many "faces" are seen in landforms. From my childhood I remember the "Sleeping Indian" mountain seen in the Colorado Rockies from the area of Walden, CO. As a child I tried to see the "sleeping indian" that the adults were talking about and, sure enough, found one. A couple of years later, I found out that what I had pegged as the Sleeping Indian was really Owl Mountain (Owl Mountain looks like the supine form, perhaps under a shroud after a brave death in battle, of an Indian Chief. You can trace the rise and fall of head, chest, and feet, and an extra lump that must be the warrior's weapons beneath the buffalo skin.) As it turned out, the real Sleeping Indian is just a head facing skyward, and you can see the profile of the face. Through binoculars the Sleeping Indian has an extra lip, but is still startlingly lifelike. I believe the name of the peaks is "the crags," and, as one might expect, the crags resemble a face only from one particular viewing direction.

Images of Sleeping Indian: [Morning Sun] [Afternoon Sun]
Image of Owl Mountain | [Full Size]

So now I am collecting "faces" seen in natural formations. (I am not the only one! See Matt Bergstrom's Stone Faces Gazetteer. Also, "Cara" pointed me to a book called "Natural Likeness: Faces and Figures in Nature" by John Mitchell. )

  1. One landmark is Nanabijou, the "sleeping giant" from Ojibway tradition. Nanabijou can be seen from the harbor of Thunder Bay, Ontario, resembling the body of a sleeping, 7-mile-long giant.

    This giant was once (legend has it) Nanabijou, the spirit of the deep sea. Long ago, Nanabijou entrusted a loyal tribe of Ojibway Indians with the secret location of a rich silver mine on Silver Islet. Nanabijou warned the Ojibway not to reveal the mine to the white men or he would be turned to stone and the tribe would perish. The rival Sioux nation, envious of the beautiful silver ornaments worn by the Ojibway, sent a scout to discover the mine's location. The scout was successful. Later, the Sioux took several silver pieces to the white traders and revealed the secret of Silver Islet. Immediately, a great storm broke over the land, turning Nanabijou to stone.


    Alternate picture
    Credit: Sleeping Giant Bottle Club

  2. "The Great Stone Face," or "Stoneface" is located in Pennington Gap, Virginia. It is said to mark the entrance to Cherokee holy ground.


    Credit: Sarah W.

  3. On the coconut coast of Hawaii lies the Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain) between Wailua and Kapaa that looks like the figure of a man. Legend has it that this was a pesky giant who ate constantly. The villagers of Wailua tricked him into eating a great number of rocks hidden in a vast quantity of fish and poi. The giant was so full that he lay down to nap, and has not (to date) awakened.

    Credit: Kauai Visitor Information

  4. Sleeping Ute Mountain lies on the "Ute Mountain Ute Reservation" in southwestern Colorado and northern New Mexico. The mountain's angular crests fit together to form a sleeping man facing the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. In Ute tradition, the mountain is a grand warrior resting from battling against great evil that threatened the Utes. The 3-day Sun Dance is held every year on a sagebrush flat over the Sleeping Ute's heart. Visitors must have a Ute guide to visit the mountain. Most of the 9977-foot Sleeping Ute mountain is uplifted layers of sandstone and shale, but his toes are volcanic necks, lava that pushed through the shale and sandstone. In the picture below, his (or her) head is to the right, and folded arms, hips, knees, and toes stretch to the left.

    Credit: John Anderson

  5. A "Sleeping Indian" near Jackson, Wyoming.

    Credit: Tad Brunye
  6. Another "Sleeping Giant" is formed by the part of the Absaroka Range near Livingston, MT. Without late afternoon shadows it is hard to see the face.

    Credit: Terry G. Smart
  7. The "Old Man of the Mountain:" In Franconia Notch, on the side of Cannon Mountain sat the Old Man of the Mountain. A natural stone formation, it was the symbol of the state of New Hampshire. Until 2003, many of the rocks were held in place with steel cables and turnbuckles. A rock climb on Cannon Cliffs goes right past the Stone Face site.

    New Hampshire's "Old Man of the Mountain"
    Folklore.

    Rock Fall!

    On May 3, 2003 or a day or two before, much of the "Old Man" fell off. Governor Craig Benson has said that the 40-foot profile should be restored, as it is New Hampshire's (the Granite State's) most recognizable symbol.

  8. The Devil's Head of North Carolina, above Rocky Broad River.

    Credit
  9. Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco, is said to resemble a sleeping indian maiden.

    Credit: Terry Marasco, www.tmarascoselections.com.


    Credit: Bill Jacobson. Pencil 1994. www.starhawk.com.


    Mount Tam on a bed headboard!

    Credit: www.tamalpais.com.

  10. Man's Face Rock near Green River, WY.

    Credit: Larry Romero and the City of Green River
  11. Profile Rock, about 2/3 of the way up Poudre Canyon, north of Fort Collins, CO.

    Credit: my own snapshot. (alt.)
  12. Old Man of the Park, near Sundance, WY.

    Full Picture. Credit: John C. H. Grabill, photo taken between 1887 and 1892, Library of Congress
  13. In Georgian Bay, near Beausoleil Island National Park, Ontario, Canada, there is an island called Giant's Tomb. According to native legend, Kitchi-Kiwana, the last of a race of giants, fell with a mountain in his arms. The mountain shattered into the 30,000 islands. The indentations of his shoulders can be seen on his favorite island, Beausoleil, where he returned to sleep each night. When he died, the natives covered him with rocks to form what is now called Giant's Tomb Island. The great god Manitou lights the fires of the northern lights to guide the spirit of Kitchi-Kawana whenever he visits the islands. (Thanks to: Nathan Wendel)
  14. In the pages of Country Magazine I found a photo of Indian Head Rock, near Choteau, Montana. I am trying to find out why it is named "Indian Head Rock" (I sure can't see anything humanoid here).

  15. Previously unnoticed face. Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, Oregon.

    Credit: Ted Werth
  16. This one is "lion's head rock" near Vail, Colorado.

    Credit: Michael Thelen

  17. This troll is in Iceland.

    Credit: Carol Smith

  18. There is a formation called Frankenstein Rock. It is near Chelan, WA, and locals will occasionally paint 'enhancements' on the stone to exaggerate the frightful aspect. But this one illustrated is Lincoln Rock, near Orondo, WA.

    Credit: Michael Rawls

  19. There is a Profile Rock in Massachusetts, also known as the Old Man of Joshua's Mountain.
  20. A Sleeping Giant is seen in the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, CO. The left is the "feet" end and the right is the "head" end.

    Credit: Stephanie Quinn

  21. Here's a bit of a different take: a satellite image of an area near Medicine Hat, Alberta. I think this is an awesome image!


    Area map.
    Credit: Tom Finnell
  22. A rock in a temple near Yamagata, Japan.

    Credit: C. Tercero
  23. Sphinx Rock in Wastwater, England; a reclining woman seen near Mt. Ixtaccihuatl, Mexico; the Old Woman, found in France; and Vartan Rock in Armenia are all covered in the Mitchell text mentioned above (many thanks to "Cara!"). The last has a charming legend:

    . . . the rock near Chermoog in Armenia forms an image of the martyr St. Vartan. A legend describes how this came about. In the 5th century A.D., the Armenians rose against the Persian invaders, and Vartan led them in the battle of Averayr, near Chermoog, where he and his small army were slaughtered. On a Sunday after the battle, the Armenian people went out to a nearby valley to mourn their loss and to pray for the return of their heroic leader. It is accounted a miracle by the Armenian church that there, before their eyes, appeared the face of St. Vartan, perfectly figured in rock. This apparition is said to have a most comforting effect on the Armenians' sprits.

  24. "The Sphinx" in the Bucegi Mountains of Romania is a popular spot for tourists.

    Credit: E. Szabo
  25. A Sleeping Giant north of Helena, Montana is noted in the Stone Faces Gazetteer.
  26. Need a clue on a Praying Lady near Dayville, Oregon . . . (thanks for the tip, John M.)
  27. The "Old Man of the Gorge" in Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA. It's a profile. (thanks for the tip, Mark L.! Image credit: old postcard. Click to zoom.)

  28. How about this one?

    Credit: John Anderson

    Differential weathering of basaltic rock in Hawaii produced this remarkably recognizable profile of John F. Kennedy. It is located on Maui, in the Iao valley.
    (Thanks for the location information, Larry Henderson!)

If somebody has information or pictures about landform faces, please email me at . I am interested in all such stories.


The "face on Mars" is still occasionally mentioned, at least in the "Weekly World News" tabloid. (Erm. Oops. That tabloid is now out of business.) Here's the basic story. In 1976, the Viking orbiter took a series of images of the Martian surface that were later combined and processed to yield the following image:

Do you see the small face? Weekly World News published this, er, artistic version that it claims is another NASA photo.
In reality, the Mars Global Surveyor did take a higher resolution (14 meter) photo of the same mountain, from a different angle. Here is a portion of that picture.
I and other reasonable people (who were never impressed by the original "face of Mars" picture anyway) conclude that there is no face on Mars, and certainly no need to conjure up a Martian civilization that was humanoid and interested in making large facial sculptures. See the Mars Face Page at Malin Space Science Systems for more information.

Or is there a face on Mars after all? Mars Global Surveyor also found the following suggestive image. Crater? Or cosmic happy face? You decide . . .


Other faces. These don't really count, as they aren't landforms! They are all organic in origin, in fact.

This is a frog butt.

These are from the Gingko Petrified Wood visitor's center: faces that appear in cut, polished sections of petrified wood. Dubbed "Moses" and "Girl" by the staff there.

This totally does NOT count!