On my 476-mile journey through Southern California on August 12, I had several goals. While seeing three friends in three cities distant from each other was high on the list, seeing the collection of life-size prehistoric creatures out in the desert was #1 on my list:
Those three mammoths are part of Galleta Meadows.
Millions of years ago the desert was a lush jungle and home to all sorts of strange animals: Mammoths; saber-toothed cats (often wrongly called saber-toothed tigers); huge birds; prehistoric horses, pigs, and dogs; sloths; camels….
Galleta Meadows was created by Dennis Avery (1940-2012), one of Southern California’s great philanthropists who lived in Borrego Springs and owned various parcels of land around the community. I’ll have more about Avery in an upcoming post because I just found out that a place I visited a couple of years ago was founded by Avery.
The steel-welded sculptures were created by Ricardo Breceda, creator of Perris Jurassic Park that rises alongside Interstate 215 in Perris, about 90 miles away. Breceda moved his sculpture and welding enterprise to Borrego Springs in December 2013.
Known as “The Sky Art Project,” it started in 2008, originally intending to feature species which once lived, or still live, in the area. After a while, other animals, some of them imaginary, joined the collection, as well as sculptures of people relevant to its history, such as a gold miner, a Spanish padre, and Native Americans.
I did not know the name of the collection before heading out to Borrego Springs, only that it existed. I came home with what I thought was a lot of pictures (27) and only now found out that there are about 150 sculptures scattered throughout the desert community surrounding Borrego Springs. This, of course, means that another trip is required….
It took me a couple of hours to explore the sculptures I found, and I was only able to do that because you’re allowed to drive from sculpture to sculpture. Trust me, you don’t want to walk in the sand in that heat.
In a few areas, though, driving means four wheel driving. I nearly got stuck in a couple of places and gave up when the going got tough….
Sculptures that I missed this first trip include prehistoric dogs, Gymphotheriums, dinosaurs, and a 350-foot long sea serpent—that’s longer than a football field!
Borrego Springs is a dark sky community, meaning that it is sufficiently clear of light pollution to allow for naked-eye astronomy. I have seen some pictures of these desert sculptures taken at dusk and at night—long exposures—and the effect is awesome. I might have to make an overnight trip to Borrego Springs.
See location on Google Maps
There are several routes to Borrego Springs. Take the route I’ve highlighted on the map above because it will take you through Cuyamaca State Park and by Lake Cuyamaca, as well as through Julian, home of the world’s best apple pies—my favorites are the apple/peach crumb and the apple/cherry crumb.
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