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Sculpture in California's Deserts

Find fantastical animal sculptures and structures made of discarded objects in Borrego Springs and Joshua Tree, Calif.

Dragon sculpture by Ricardo Breceda, Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs, Calif., image
Photo caption
Ricardo Breceda’s serpent roars out of the desert at Galleta Meadows in Borrego Springs, Calif.


Four-tusked elephants, giant sloths, and saber-toothed cats once roamed the lands that are now Anza-Borrego Desert State Park northeast of San Diego. At sprawling Galleta Meadows ( in Borrego Springs, it’s easy to imagine that they still do.

The property—about 3,000 noncontiguous acres—is strewn with 132 metal sculptures of ancient and fantastical animals, among them a 350-foot-long dragon that looks as if it’s diving in and out of the earth, its segmented rattlesnake tail emerging last.

“In my own way I brought the fossils back to life,” says Ricardo Breceda of Temecula, Calif., who was commissioned by Dennis Avery, a local benefactor, to create the wild sculptures.

Can’t get there? Two and a half hours north, the Noah Purifoy Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum feels like an eerie theme park located on the edge of nowhere. Purifoy, an artist from Los Angeles, spent his last years building whimsical structures and sculptures from discarded objects such as car parts and fabric—picture a train made of vacuum cleaners. Call for an appointment (preferred) or drop in. (213) 382-7516,

Photography from Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist by Diana Lindsay, courtesy Sunbelt Publications


This article was first published in January 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.