On the morning of April 10, 2008, residents of Borrego Springs were surprised to find a family of elephant-like creatures called gomphotheres being installed on Borrego Springs Road just south of Big Horn Rd. on property owned by Borrego resident Dennis Avery, son of the founder of the Avery Dennison Corp. who was known for his philanthropic endeavors around the globe. He was now about to be known for his whimsical metal-sculpture garden that he created in Borrego Valley.
Most of the life-like metal sculptures are replicas of early Pleistocene animals that roamed this valley several million years ago based on the fossil record as described in the award-winning book Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert. The sculptures, called “Sky Art,” were commissioned by Avery and constructed by metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda. The 131 sculptures are scattered around Borrego Valley in life-like poses on property that Avery set aside for conservation purposes and kept open for public use.
Besides the Pleistocene animals, there are dinosaurs and mythical creatures. A Sky Art Metal Sculptures of Borrego Valley laminated map gives details about each of the sculptures as does a new e-book entitled Metal Sculptures of Borrego Valley, which has links to articles, stories, and videos. For those that want even more details and photographs, there is also a coffee-table book entitled Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist, which has won numerous awards.
Begin the bike ride at Christmas Circle and head north on Borrego Springs Road 1.82 miles to Big Horn Road to see the original gomphothere family. Turn right on Big Horn Road or, if using a mountain bike, take the dirt road that parallels the road to get a close-up view of the scorpion attacking the grasshopper and the field workers who are picking grapes. Turn left (north) on Di Giorgio Road and follow it 1.15 miles to Henderson Canyon Road and turn left (west). Passing the gate at Indianhead Ranch, note the Indian, the giant tortoises, and the sabertooth cats on the north side of the gate. If the gate is open, there is the option of biking or walking up Galleta Parkway to view the tapirs, peccaries, and velociraptors. A left turn on Stagecoach Way will lead to the bighorn sheep and a miner and his mule.
Continuing west on Henderson Canyon Road, note the padre, his dog, and a saguaro to the north and northwest. Immediately after turning left (south) on Borrego Springs Road, note the full-size 1946 Willys Jeep. Continue down Borrego Springs Road, passing the elephants and turn right on Santa Rosa Road. Turn left on Catarina Drive and after about a half-mile, turn left on San Ysidro. For a slightly longer ride, add a loop by turning right on Catarina Drive and follow it as it turns into Yaqui Road and then into Lazy S Drive. Turn right on Pointing Rock Drive and follow it around back to Catarina Drive and then turn right on San Ysidro. Look right to see camelids and llamas. At Borrego Springs Road, turn right to view the spectacular dragon on the right and the Harlan ground sloths and camelids on the left. Turn left on Big Horn Road and immediately look left to see Shasta ground sloths. Continue to Di Giorgio Road and turn right. Ride 1.82 miles to Palm Canyon Drive and turn right. Look at the sculpture of Juan Bautista de Anza at the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce before returning to Christmas Circle.
- Distance from downtown San Diego: About 85 miles to Christmas Circle (Borrego Springs). Allow about 2 hours by car. From Ramona, drive east on SR-78 to Santa Ysabel. Turn north on SR-79 and drive to the junction with SR-2/San Felipe Road and turn southeast. At the junction with SR-22, turn east to Ranchita and follow SR-22 to the stop sign in Borrego Springs. Turn left and drive to Christmas Circle and park. Facilities.
- Biking length: A loop of 9.5 to 13 miles depending on route chosen.
- Difficulty: Easy. Facilities at Christmas Circle. Carry water. Relatively flat. Wind usually from the west. The sculptures can also be viewed in summer months if riding either early morning or late afternoon when it is not too hot. For bike rentals, contact Bike Borrego in Borrego Springs.