This article highlights Borrego Springs’ Sculptures, a surprising art expression in the middle of the desert.
Waking up in Julian on a Tuesday forced us to consider greener pastures (locals assured most businesses are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
In this case, I guess we chose dryer pastures since I set my eyes on Borrego Springs, a village located 30 miles northeast of Julian. Ohh, did I mentioned Borrego Springs is surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park?
Therefore, our mini road trip scenery, vegetation, and elevation presented quite striking changes.
We started by descending the mountains through Highway 78. The sight of pines and oaks growing abundantly on deep valleys took my mind off the sharp, winding curves.
Sooner than later we arrived at a flat area where open spaces, covered in succulents and cacti, continued to appear after every bend. At one point, I couldn’t resist the desert colors and got out of the car to take pictures. I saw a group of butterflies, then another and another. I was surrounded by a cloud of these insects which felt like a scene of a fairytale.
Borrego Springs’ Sculptures
A sign welcomed us to Anza-Borrego, California’s largest state park. Since the park surrounds our final destination, we had to gain elevation once again driving thru a road called Yaqui Pass. The features in the valley floor started to appear minuscule which made realize the mountains around here are very high.
In a matter of minutes, we started to descend, one again, and I was able to see Borrego Springs.
This is where I felt like my sight started to fail. In a sandy lot cover by low bush, a metal elephant sculptures appeared. Then, I saw horses and an eagle. What was going on?
I am being dramatic here. In Julian, I saw flyers promoting the Borrego Springs’ sculptures and, of course, they were one of the reasons that made this village attractive (you know my travel style). Now, I was not expecting to get captivated by the details, expressions, and textures of something created out of metal.
Borrego Springs is small, isolated, and dusty. There are zero stoplights and the houses (and businesses) are scattered all around. Two ‘malls’ can be found close to the center of town.
Everything comes alive during the high season, the time when the temperatures cool down. Unfortunately, we arrived a week before the official start of the high season. That meant the Anza-Borrego Park headquarter, stores, restaurants, and other businesses were closed. The lady in the visitor’s center wasn’t sure about the hiking conditions in the park because there had been terrible floods in the months before.
But the sculptures, the sculptures are always there. The mind behind the project (and responsible for giving Borrego new life) was named Dennis Avery. If that name sounds familiar it is because he was the son of the man who invented the self-stick label (and the one who inherited his fortune).
Dennis was a philanthropist at heart and during his life contributed to many causes in different countries. Attracted by the small-town feeling, he lived in Borrego Springs from 1990-2001. His love for the town made him contribute to several community projects. He even purchased three square miles of non-contiguous land and called his property Galleta Meadows.
By chance, in 2007, he met artist Ricardo Breceda, known for his realistic metal creations. Avery, eventually, commissioned 131 sculptures and placed them at different sites on his property. The sculptures have attracted visitors and boosted the local economy. Dennis Avery’s legacy will continue to impact generations to come (he passed away in 2012).
Where to Find Borrego Spring’s Sculptures
The area where the sculptures are placed is big. A map to get oriented can be obtained in the visitor’s center. Also, there is a Don Quijote de La Mancha sculpture in front of the building.
North of Borrego Springs, at the intersection of Borrego Springs Road and Big Horn Road, you are going to find a large cluster of sculptures. Make sure to turn rights on Big Horn Road (if driving north) to see sculptures on both sides of the road.
Keep driving north on Borrego Springs Road and turn left on San Ysidro Drive to find more sculptures. There is a second large cluster at the intersection of Borrego Springs and Henderson Canyon.
South of Borrego Springs, you will find sculptures on Borrego Springs Road between Di Giorgio Road and Anzio Drive.
Try not to miss the mythological dragon, which has become the symbol of Borrego Springs.
Avery was a paleontology enthusiast so expect to see dinosaurs and ice age mammals.
Borrego Springs Location/When to Visit
Borrego Springs is located about 90 miles from Downtown San Diego (2 hours drive). If you are starting your drive from the coast, keep in mind you will need to cross the mountains to reach Borrego Springs. These are good news since you will get a glimpse of the coast, mountains, and desert in a single drive. Don’t you love California?
I recommend stopping for apple pie, cinnamon ice cream, and other sweet treats in Santa Ysabel or Julian before going down to the desert.
You can also visit Borrego Springs from Palms Springs or other cities located in the Coachella Valley. The distance is about 90 miles and you can make it in 1.5 hours.
Since the sculptures are located in the open desert, it would be ideal to avoid a visit during the summer months.
Where to Eat
If you need to grab a bite while in town, check out the following suggestions:
Red Ocotillo – This local favorite serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast includes huge portions of pancakes, French toast, and huevos rancheros. You can try their sandwiches, burgers, salads, pasta dishes, and classics for the rest of the day.
Carlee’s – This eatery offers guests soups, salads, appetizers, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and drinks. The selection is wonderful (including plenty of vegetarian and vegan options).
El Borrego Restaurant – This is the place to get your fix of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas, and fajitas. Thet serves burgers, sandwiches, and soups too.
Aguanga (48 miles) – This the place where Ricardo Breceda, the creator of Borrego Springs’s Sculptures, has his art gallery. Stop by if you are interested in seeing more of his works.
Anza Borrego State Park (4 miles) – Most people visiting Borrego Springs en route to this big park featuring badlands, canyons, palm oases, and rock formations.
Salton Sea (60 miles to the recreation area, about 30 miles to the shores) – This human-created body of water (it was an error) offers quirky museums, preserves, and wildlife sightseeing opportunities.
Read More: Things to Do in the Salton Sea
Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreational Area (20 miles) – This recreational area is a paradise for those who enjoy driving off-road (and have the proper vehicles).
My visit to Borrego Springs was short but sweet. Hopefully, I can stop by town once again (during high season). If things do not go as planned, at least I know the sculptures are going to be there waiting for me.
More of the Area
One Day in San Diego Itinerary
Have you visited Borrego Springs’ Sculptures?
Lauren Meshkin says
Those sculptures are SO cool!!
Happy travels 🙂
Glad to see you like them You have to check them out one day!
Cathy Sweeney says
No, I haven’t visited the Borrego Springs sculptures, but I love the desert and enjoy art, so it would be fun. I don’t know if this kind of sculpture is really my style, but I appreciate the creativity and skill.
I can’t wait to visit more of this area. I understand these artistic style does not appeal to everybody but I was surprised by the level of detail that can be attained.