Quirky creations in the desert – Borrego Springs, CA

If landscape such as that at Anza-Borrego desert doesn’t grab you and you find it difficult to see beauty in a desert environment, then a visit here may not be appropriate.  But what if the same place had a bunch of huge quirky sculptures located in its midst?

As we drove through the desert during our stay, we caught glimpses of many rust-colored sculptures dotting the landscape.  I was curious about them, so I got a map from the visitor center, grabbed my camera and headed out to inspect the collection up close and personal. It took me a couple of visits to see them all, with so many spread out in the desert outside of town.

Galleta Meadows
An extinct horse seems to be interested in my car

It was in 2008 that the late Dennis Avery, heir to the Avery Dennison label fortune, commissioned metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda to build free-standing metal sculptures for his massive property in Borrego Springs.  Mr Avery purchased many acres in the valley to keep it from ever being developed, calling his land Galleta Meadows Estate.  Since then these quirky sculptures have been installed throughout the property.

The sculptor had a vast palette to work with, and there are more than 130 metal sculptures scattered over three non-contiguous square miles of Borrego Valley.  Much of the theme centers on prehistoric animals that once roamed the valley.  The fossils of these animals have been found nearby in some of the most extensive and well-preserved paleontology sites in North America.  So most of these creatures really did live here at one time.

A close look at the intricacies of this amazing work

The sculptor/artist brings life to his sculptures by capturing each subject in motion:

Over time the theme has evolved and now includes galloping and fighting horses, mythical birds with prey, giant insects and a celebration of the history and culture of the desert environment.

Galleta Meadows

An Indian head overlooking the desert meadows
My friends from California check out the mythical bird
Sky Art in the desert
Check out the detail of the Gold panner’s horse
Galleta Meadows
Fascinating detail of hair
Galleta Meadows
Farm workers tending to vineyards
Galleta Meadows
My favorite – a grasshopper and scorpion face off
Galleta Meadows
On another day we came back so I could referee the fight

But the biggest of them all is the mythological dragon.  It’s huge, rising about 15′ out of the ground and stretching 350′ long with the tail of a rattlesnake.  It appears to undulate through the ground as it passes under an adjacent road:

Galleta Meadows
Seen from the rear, the road actually passes over the dragon’s rattlesnake tail!

Galleta Meadows

The menagerie of quirky life-like sculptures is the pride and joy of Borrego Springs, thanks to its benefactor.  These are just a few of the pictures I took, and there are many more sculptures to check out here.  Viewing and touching them are free, and it’s the only way to appreciate the intricacies, details and the creative imagination of the sculptor.

Spring would be perfect for a visit, so the blooming of the wildflowers could be enjoyed at the same time!




  1. Seeing the sculptures year after year never gets old. The small details are amazing. My favorite is the Vineyard. Beautiful photo of the dragon.

  2. You did a great job of photographing the enormous sculptures! We always enjoy searching them out when we’re in Anza Borrego—we’ve never seen the Vineyard, but we’ll look for that next time. And the serpent, of course, is amazing. Did you see the sculpture of the two bighorn sheep perched on a hill? It’s especially wonderful at sunset.

  3. I’ve seen these sculptures before, but I’ve never seen them photographed this well. I’m sure it’s difficult in the bright light of the desert and everything. Really nice!

  4. This sounds like just the perfect spring to be there. I love the sculptures and your pictures are terrific. The one with you refereeing the fight really shows their size. Great post!

  5. One of these days we’ll get to see those amazing sculptures! I’ve been saying this for years. Something always gets in the way. Twice a year we go past that area. One day.

  6. Weee! I’d definitely go back to BS for the sculptures. They are so cool! Those darn things are hard to photograph, 🙂 and you did so well.

Comments are closed.