Driving along the remote SoCA S-3 highway, you might spy a horse as it rears off to the side of the road. Then, rising out of the flat desert landscape, an elephant appears. Alarmingly close by, a T-Rex bears its maw chasing a saber-tooth tiger.
This is not a mirage, but the work of artist/welder Ricardo Breceda, whose sculptures dot the Anza-Borrego Desert two hours east of San Diego. Dennis Avery, the now-deceased land owner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs (and heir to the Avery labels fortune), envisioned the idea of adding ‘free-standing art’ to his property with original steel welded sculptures created by ‘Perris Jurassic Park’ owner/artist/welder Ricardo Breceda based in Perris, California.
Sprinkled throughout the small town of Borrego Springs are over 130 meticulously crafted metal sculptures. Elephants, raptors, mammoths, sloths, and saber-toothed tigers prowl the desert off Borrego Springs Road north and south of the town proper. From ground-hugging desert tortoises to rearing horses, each rust-colored sculpture is filled with intricate detail—from the curling eyelashes of 10-foot high elephants to the shaved metal fur of the equally imposing sloths.
In 2019, the Under the Sun Foundation took over management of the Galleta Meadows Estate site, including Breceda’s sculptures.
As large as these sculptures are, they can be tricky to find. The Under the Sun Foundation website has a helpful online map. Elephants, sloths, camels, and raptors roam the roads north off Borrego Springs Road toward Henderson Canyon Road. South of Borrego Springs, Borrego Springs Road becomes S-3 as it slides toward Ocotillo Wells. Wild horses and raptors border the highway here before Yaqui Pass Road.
Know Before You Go
Borrego Springs is two hours east of San Diego. From North County, take Hwy. 78 east to the park. Printed maps are available from the Borrego Springs Library, The Anza-Borrego Foundation, and the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association.
The Estate is free to visit, though the land the sculptures are on is privately owned property. Adhere to posted signage by keeping to assigned roads and using caution and common sense when crossing the various roadways.
Each art piece can vary in distance from the assigned paths, so wear sensible footwear and be prepared for inclement weather, (especially heat in the warmer months).
The best time to visit is during the week. Weekends are busier with both cyclists and dog walkers.