Borrego Springs Is Akin to Ocean Beach — and Not Just the Palms

by on February 2, 2023 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Kathy Blavatt

All Photos by Kathy Blavatt

Lovely views, incredible sunsets, hometown charm, and Palm trees describe Ocean Beach. Another berg, Borrego Springs, has these same characteristics but is the opposite of Ocean Beach in climate and surrounding desert mountain terrain of Anza-Borrego.

The tall California Fan Palms are like O.B.’s but grow in the town of Borrego Springs.

This little community rests in the flat section of the desert where the climate is primarily dry and hot, with cool nights in the winter months.

When you start looking around the town of Borrego Springs, you notice similarities to some of the landscaping in Ocean Beach. First, you notice the tall, established palms. Then you see the cactus and native plants. Many of these cacti and native plants grow well in Ocean Beach and can be seen in the local landscapes.

Richard Carrico, a former Ocean Beach resident, is a yearly featured guest at the Ocean Beach Historical Society. He specializes in Native American history and ethnohistory. Carrico is the author of two books on local history and is a frequent contributor to anthropological and historical journals.

Carrico studied the former migration routes of the indigenous tribes and explained that the tribes would migrate from East to West. Along the way, they would collect seeds that they planted along their migration paths. Many of these plants were edibles and had utilitarian and healing uses.

Recently, my husband Ray, a board member of the Congress of History for San Diego and Imperial County, went to a meeting in Borrego Springs hosted by The Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA — pronounced “ABNA”), which is in the middle of town. ABDNHA is a community-based non-profit 501(c)3 educational organization founded in 1971.

ABDNHA’s native garden was started five years ago. Like our Point Loma Native Garden and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, it has graphic and photographic display signs about the local information, history, and plants.

The garden is full of various native plants that line the naturally styled pathways. Borrego Springs has displays of native plants throughout the community and a tremendous native garden behind ABDNHA’s store and offices, in the middle of town.

The ABDNHA Native Garden also has benches and art displays that allow visitors places to relax or focus on the garden’s habitat and beauty.

The ABDNHA Native Garden is open in the evenings. Walking through the softly lit garden on a starry night feels ethereal. Besides having native gardens, Ocean Beach and Borrego Springs both have good size community gardens.

Conveniently located near the center of town, you can find Borrego Springs’ funky Community Garden. Similar to O.B.’s Community Garden, they welcome children to participate, it incorporates art into the garden designs, and they grow a variety of edibles, including fruit trees.

Borrego Springs Community Garden has one BIG thing that O.B. Community Garden does NOT! A T-Rex! They have a large cactus pots to help to keep the local T-Rex at bay!!!

Borrego is known for their dinosaurs and other large creatures that roam the local terrain.

In the desert near Borrego Springs are other giant free-range sculptures at the Galleta Meadow Statues, a massive, permanent art installation by Ricardo Breceda. This gigantic art installation was financed by Dennis Avery, a former San Diegan whose family owned an Ocean Beach 1915 home on Bermuda Avenue overlooking the beach.

Dennis used his share of a family fortune (Avery Labels) to fund philanthropic ventures worldwide. Sadly, Avery passed away in 2012, but his vision for expansive natural-setting exhibits of extraordinary creatures is celebrated in the Anza-Borrego desert landscape for visitors to enjoy.

My favorite Breceda sculpture is a 350-foot-long dragon serpent that extends under the road to both sides. Other sculptures include horses, a face-off between a scorpion and a grasshopper, dinosaurs, camels, and elephants.

Besides having dinosaurs, Borrego Springs is the only International Dark Sky Community in California that controls light pollution, which plagues many major metropolitan areas. Artificial light causes in-blight pollution that shines luminescence into the night sky, creating a sky glow.

Light pollution reduces the quality of dark sky observation. The community and the International Dark Sky Association are committed to protecting the nighttime environment.

After our magical night, we woke to a gorgeous morning. We walked around town and found a great breakfast diner in the local mall.

Surprisingly, we ran into our old friend Teri, who used to live Ocean Beach. She now lives in Borrego Springs and has a very cool shop called “Lucky Gifts” in the town’s mall. Teri’s shop is a mixture of “some new, some old, handcrafted and embellish items, and clothing.” She makes a lot of fanciful garments for the visitors headed through town on their way to the Burning Man festival.

As we headed home, we talked about the extraordinary time we had. Borrego Springs felt like our desert version of Ocean Beach.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bob Edwards February 3, 2023 at 8:43 am

Excellent article! We just spent a few days in Borrego doing some great hikes. Flowers were raging for January. Night skies were clear and amazing. I hope we continue to get some rain so the more typical big bloom in February and March is a good one. The only downer on our trip was that we came upon a fatal motorcycle accident along Highway S2 our first day. This is the second fatal single-vehicle accident we’ve seen in the desert (the last one was in Death Valley about 3-4 years ago). Desert driving can be hypnotic and all it takes is a moment of distraction and a single tire going off the pavement and you end up with a roll over and someone dies or is severely injured. Tragic for the victims, their families, and very traumatic for the people passing by who then have to attempt to resuscitate the victim. Be alert!


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