Friday, March 19, 2021

Blooms, art vie for attention in the desert near Borrego Springs

Ricardo Breceda's whimsical sculptures include desert wildlife and this fetching dragon,
 whose tail intriguingly goes under the road and emerges on the other side of the highway.


A daughter's infatuation with movie creatures
inspired sculptor Ricardo Breceda's success.

Recent March rains have brought out the blooms on cacti.

Head east and slightly north of San Diego
to find a bonanza of art and flowers. 
These remarkable art pieces—sometimes whimsical, sometimes haunting—are  one of a kind works. Some of Breceda's creatures are ambitious fantasies. They bring a smile. We can almost see Breceda winking as he playfully places his serpent on both sides of the road -- suggesting in a clever arc that the critter's tail dips under the playa, emerging on the other side. Other pieces realistically represent now extinct creatures.

Our search is for blooms bursting from cacti. As we walk, drive or bike, we listen to bird song as sweet as the morning air and happily happen upon a bonus of unusual sculpture.

 WE QUICKLY discover that nature's bounty isn't the desert's only attraction. Dozens of art pieces by Durango, Mexico, native and California transplant Breceda draw us in, too. His free-ranging artwork runs the gamut from prehistoric mammals to historical characters, dinosaurs, western figures and  native wildlife.   

Beneath the desert hillside, surrounded by cholla, an
elephant by Ricardo Breceda awaits inspection. 
Once you find Borrego Springs Road, you're on a path to nature's wonders -- plus delightful sculpture of elephants, sabre-tooth cats, ancient camels, raptors and big horn sheep coming down from the mountains to graze. Several imaginative human figures complement the artist's wide ranging critter kingdom. One, of an early priest who settled in the area, is a bit of a walk, well worth it if you're in a car rather than on foot or or bike.

KNOWN AS the "Accidental artist," Breceda began creating his metal animal kingdom when his daughter Lianna, then six, requested a dinosaur for Christmas, after being captivated by the film "Jurassic Park III."

At the time, Breceda was selling cowboy boots for a living, so he traded a pair of those for a welding machine. (One could say his boots were made for sculpting!) After a few weeks of labor, he unveiled his first sculpture, a 20-foot tall tyrannosaurus rex. The hobby grew into a passion as he created one after another life-like creations, becoming in short order a sought after sculptor and designer.              
A bounty of blooms can be found in Anza Borrego desert
if one is willing to spend time and patience.

 GOOD FORTUNE continued to visit him when he met Dennis Avery, of well known label maker  Avery Dennison Corporation. Avery owned Galleta Meadows Estates and nurtured a vision of a giant free-standing gallery on his property. The dream flourished and now includes more than 130 pieces which pepper the landscape, including the remarkably fetching 350 foot sea serpent featured in this article's top photo by our team's own travel-nature fan and artistic visionary, Bruce Keller.    
One of Ricardo Breceda's wonderfully crafted
bighorn sheep awaits roadside viewing in the Anza Borrego desert.

BOTH ART MADE by man and that of the natural world delight and surprise drivers near Borrego Springs. We look for them, along with the blooms and always take in the Anza Borrego State Park Visitor Center, where this time of year, you'll find poppies, visalia, and brittlebush blooming. North of Borrego Springs proper, along Henderson Canyon Road, Canyon Road is where you'll want to be for flowers fields of delicate purples and golds, and unique sculpture not found anywhere else. We recommend taking your time for this treasure hunt.   Bring plenty of water and a protein bar to keep you hydrated and nourished on your adventure.  
Bruce Keller and Christene"Cookie" Meyers
take bikes to the desert in search of art, blooms.
BRECEDA'S ART brings life to the desert, which is otherwise not as colorful as it has been some years. Lack of consistent moisture has resulted in fewer blooms than usual, but the recent March rains have brought the cactus and wildflowers out. It just takes a bit more looking than in the "super bloom" years when one can see bursts of color even from the car. The ocotillo are just beginning to bud out and the wild flowers are showing color. Meanwhile, enjoy the sculpture, which is to be savored along with the colors nature provides.

A DRIVE, HIKE or bike ride through the Anza Borrego desert is a feast for the eyes and balm for the soul. You've stumbled upon an amazing outdoor "museum," as you discover not only nature's bounty, but the eye catching sculpture of Ricardo Breceda, artfully spread throughout the park. 
Flowers complement the sculpture for a pleasing mix as we embark upon our treasure hunt. 

 Spotlight on desert sculptor


A miner's faithful companion is loaded with gear.
Some of the sculptures may be seen from the road.
Others require a bit of a short walk to view up close.

WE RECOMMEND a few days in the desert. You'll return to your world refreshed and invigorated at the sights and sounds. And if you wonder, as we did, what the name "Anza Borrego" means, here you go: the park takes its moniker from the 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the word borrego, Spanish for sheep.
Looking for a place to stay, steps away from the action? The Palms at Indian Head and La Casa del Zorro are our two favorites, very different from one another and each with its charms and much to recommend.

Director Francis Ford Coppola is immortalized in a sculpture
in Savoca, Italy, which he has visited multiple times since
the filming of "The Godfather," nearly a half-century ago.
UP NEXT: Next week marks the 49th anniversary of the premier of "The Godfather," a movie that people still talk about and watch again and again.  It raked in the big bucks at the box office in 1972, winning Oscars for its stars and director Francis Ford Coppola.  It also made a star of the quiet little village of Savoca in Sicily. Come with us to  celebrate what many consider one of the best films of all time -- and the sleepy village which became a star in its own right. Please share the link:


  1. Fun story combining nature's wonders and man's art.

  2. Palm Springs spring chickensMarch 20, 2021 at 4:35 PM

    We are big flower fans and love spring in Borrego. Thanks for sharing Breceda's art, too.