The sculptures at Galleta Meadows Estates are the result of two men sharing a vision to provide public access to Sky Art, as entrepreneur Dennis Avery calls the prehistoric menagerie of Ricardo Breceda’s metal sculptures. Some of these creatures once roamed the earth, others the imagination.
With at least 130 sculptures to choose from I began one afternoon with a few hours before a repair appointment in town. About 1 1/2 miles north of Borrego Springs’ Christmas Circle I parked off road when I saw some large and unusual rust colored animals in an open sandy lot. And even though I’d seen photos of Breceda’s art I wasn’t fully prepared for this safari of imagination.
They didn’t quite look like the elephants I’ve seen in South Africa, but certainly related. The Gomphotheres (FT-10 on map below), who roamed this area 4 million years ago, were smaller than mammoths and about the same size as their descendants the modern elephant. Both Avery and Breceda shared an obsession with the prehistoric and this gomphotheres was the first installment in 2008.
The detail of these rough metal sculptures is amazing. I’ll never look at scrap metal the same. Built of reinforcement bars, wire, and metal, Breceda uses various sized hammers, from screwdrivers to sledgehammers, to pound texture into the patches of metal he welds together.
Not far from these ancient almost elephants stood another animal that looked familiar. The Camelops (FT-10) is an extinct genus of camel that once roamed western North America but disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene about 10,000 years ago.
A little further away I saw what looked like a grasshopper and scorpion (HN-5) faceoff. Yet by now I took nothing for granted and approached with caution. These two must be on steroids because when a couple walked by it looked like the scorpion could easily grab their mid-size dog.
After walking around the sandy lot for over an hour I discovered the keys to the camper had fallen off the hook on my belt loop. Still had the truck key and figured a screwdriver would probably get me in the camper. But I back tracked and fortunately found them near the camelops half buried under a footprint in the sand.
By the second visit I’d picked up a map at the Anza-Borrego visitor center of all the sculpture’s locations. Then Grand Canyon friends came to visit and after a hike to the snake we made the rounds. Dennis Avery, who died in 2012, owned Avery Labels and about three square miles of undeveloped property throughout Borrego Springs. None of the scattered locations are more than 1/2 to 5 miles apart.
We started off being stalked by Gracile Sabertooth Cats (FT-4) I shared before. This robust 100-200 pound kitty, smallest of ancient Americas’ sabertooths, roamed the area when it was forest and swamp then went extinct about 10,000 years ago. Nearby a family of Merriam’s Tapirs (FT-3) ate off the scrubby local growth and seemed oblivious of the cats they would have once shared a landscape with.
Just out of sight a pair of Velociraptor (WF-1) appeared to be in a trance-like dance with an audience of Giant Tortoise (FT-2) while nearby a mother peccary (FT-1), or javelina, stood suckling and paying no mind. I wondered if the far more ancient tortoises were laughing at the dancing dinos. Yet dinosaurs have been Brecada’s best seller from his ‘Perris Jurassic Park’ shop along Interstate 215 in Perris, California.
Half mile further and our hearts all skipped beats as we witnessed a serpent (WF-2) crossing the road, actually going under the road with it’s 350’ length. The most recent of Breceda’s installations and possibly created in response to his beginnings as a metal artist. Originally from Durango, Mexico, and not an artist, one day he made a dinosaur statue for his daughter. Later, after an accident lost him his job he pursued his art full-time.
Once we caught our breaths and escaped to the car a drive to Christmas Circle and beyond to the south maybe 2.5 miles a Sabertooth attacking a now extinct horse (Ft-11) caught our eyes. And not far away an Aiolornis (FT-12) stood on it’s nest. Unfortunately this large bird stood against an ever darkening sky not conducive for photos.
The day I left Anza-Borrego for Agua Caliente I did one more drive past the Spanish Padre and a Saguaro (HN-3) and the 1946 Willys Jeep (HN-4) which I dreamed of using to explore more of this amazing desert.
What to know before you go
If you ever visit Borrego Springs California, a nice little town surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, I highly recommend a visit to Ricardo Breceda’s Galleta Meadows Estates metal sculptures. Probably be a good idea to ask for a map at either the park’s visitor center or in town at the ABF store. The complete circuit of about 20 miles round trip offers safe places to pull off the road and some sand roads. Please don’t make new roads and pay attention to soft sand. Summer visits should include plenty of water, hat and sunscreen for this scorching desert environment. And because Borrego Springs is a “Dark Sky Community” think about bringing your tripod for a starry background to the Sky Art of Ricardo Breceda.
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