Discover the Desert Sculptures of Borrego Springs, California

At first the desert seems like a barren land of death, void of life or happiness. It takes spending time here in the desert to appreciate its beauty and the life that lives and flourishes here. I judged the desert my entire life, always comparing it to its fun counterpart: the ocean. I love the ocean, be it on a boat or on the beach, something about the water makes me feel alive, full of dreams and desires. I never thought this was possible in the desert. But now that my husband and I’ve completed our tour of desert art in Southern California, I’ve come to love the desert, how it allows me to be silent with myself and to dream with my eyes open.

No wonder that the desert and its strange, vast landscape blooms with so many artists. The desert allows for free and unusual expressions that may not otherwise be appreciated in other ecosystems. This isn’t an area for landscape paintings, but rather a place to build mountains out of dirt and paint or “trash art” in an area so bizarre and unique that it almost haunts you after visiting. There’s art for “god” and art that speaks to disasters or historic events. Here in the desert you can find homes that are art, landscapes are art, or art-adorned lawns across private residences, hotels, and businesses. There’s even a garden made up completely of cactus and large natural stones, temping you with painful barbs as you soak up their beauty.

That’s probably why Ricardo Breceda has done so well here, attracting thousands of visitors each year to see his metal sculptures in the almost obscure Borrego Springs, on the edge of Anza Borrego State Park. Unlike most artists who struggle and starve in the name of their art, Ricardo found art to make money. His story shows that the American dream is still possible. An immigrant from Mexico, a single parent and, due to an injury, was left selling cowboy boots. When his seven-year-old daughter begged him to make her a life-sized dinosaur out of metal, he had no idea what it would lead to. The late Dennis Avery, land owner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs, discovered Ricardo and commissioned him to create over 130 large metal sculptures on his property, drawing tourism to this small town. These sculptures were made free to the public. There’s even a trust in place that assures these massive giants, which roamed this Anza Borrego desert millions of years ago during the Pilo-Pleistocene age, would be maintained and live forever. Later, sculptures were inspired by local history, adding a fanciful touch to them. Ricardo now has art all over the world and a gallery in Temecula, California, with sculptures for sale.

Is the art worth making a trip to see? The sculptures and Anza Borrego State Park are both worth spending time getting to know. The park is beyond beautiful, with its mountains and vast land extending for miles. It’s easily one of the most beautiful deserts I’ve ever witnessed, and I like it more than the famous Joshua Tree State Park. Plus, like all other state parks, this park also has great hikes, camping, and educational programs that help grow awareness of this tender and fragile ecosystem. The sculptures are easy to find, and are an easy addition to your visit to the area. My biggest suggestion would be to take the time to drive up to all the sculptures, get out of your car, and spend time with them. You’ll be surprised by the details; you can see the dings in the metal, and how each metal scrap fits like puzzle pieces. The most intriguing part of these sculptures is how light they are and shake in life-like motion in the wind. The best part is that the whole park is just a little over an hour from San Diego, making it an easy extension to your beach vacation.

The sculptures are scattered across a three-square-mile, non-contagious desert land on either side of Borrego Valley Road. The famous 300-foot-long serpent extends from one side to the other side of the road. Intricate features show the artist’s attention to detail. One side of the Borrego Valley Road is filled with serpent, scorpion, elephants, camels, grasshoppers, and a few dinosaurs. On the other end of the road, most of the sculptures are horses and among them the eagle, mammoths, giant tortoises, and a T-Rex. The terrain of this open park obviously requires a four-wheel-drive to traverse the landscape and reach each sculpture.

After visiting the park and appreciating the sculptures, enjoy Borrego Springs with a cup of coffee or a beer. The city has a population of about 2,000 residents, and it almost doubles in the winter season.

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