Borrego Springs: Stars, Art and Citrus in a Laidback Desert Town

Smack in the middle of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park lies the unpretentious town of Borrego Springs, population 3,429.

It’s the only California town that is completely surrounded by a state park, and that’s just one item on its list of bragging rights.

It’s also an official International Dark Sky Community—the first in California—dedicated to protecting the night sky from light pollution.

In 2009, the International Dark-Sky Association designated Borrego Springs as the second International Dark Sky Community in the world.

Borrego Springs earned that distinction by restricting and modifying lights on public streets, outside of businesses, and even on residents’ front porches. It doesn’t hurt to have a high mountain range between here the big, bright cities and towns of Southern California, plus 600,000 acres of undeveloped Anza-Borrego Desert State Park all around. 

To minimize light pollution, the streetlights in Borrego Springs are subtle, not glaring, and the local airport has adjusted its aircraft beacon to angle downward. The town’s residents like to see their skies illuminated by millions of bright stars, and they plan to keep it that way.

Backyard stargazing parties happen almost every night. Lay out a blanket to see countless stars.

If you’d like to school up on what you’re seeing, schedule an evening under the stars with astronomer Dennis Mammana of Borrego Night Sky Tours.

The Springs at Borrego, an RV resort with a small observatory housing an 11-inch diameter telescope, holds public viewings and lectures several times a year. In April, take part in even more events during Dark Sky Week.

Then there’s the ruby red grapefruit season, which begins in late December and ends when all the grapefruit are eaten. Some local fruit stands are run on the honor system: pick up a bag and place your money in the box.

Palm Canyon Campground (pictured above) near the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park visitor center contains 65 non-hookups and 52 full-hookup sites including 50/30/20-amp electric service. It includes campsites for virtually every type of camper.

An award-winning recreational vehicle resort, The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course (pictured below) offers 90 spacious pull-through sites—each 35 feet wide, and 70 premium back-in sites that average 40-feet wide by 80-feet long with dual hook-ups that allow you to pull-in or back-in.

The downtown area has a passel of ice cream shops, restaurants, and lodgings, but the local art scene evokes the most community pride.

First, there are the supersize prehistoric and fantastical beasts lining area roads, the work of metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda. Here, in the middle of the desert, is a magical menagerie of free-standing sculptures that will astound you.

The Gomphotherium free-standing art structures (pictured below) were the idea of Dennis Avery, land owner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs. The art structures are placed in various locations along Borrego Springs Road and Henderson Canyon Road. The sculptures are set in natural areas where the animals appear to be a normal part of the landscape.Then there are galleries with more works by local artists, and a plein air painting event which is executed outdoors and represents an artists’ direct response to the scene in front of him or her.

The Circle of Art, a fine art show, features over 70 artists representing a variety of media including oil and watercolors, photography, sculpture, ceramics, and pottery. Plan ahead for the 30th annual show March 16-17, 2019 at the Christmas Circle Park.

Get your own art on with a watercolor or pottery-making class offered by the nonprofit Borrego Art Institute.

Where to Stay: Palm Canyon Campground (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park); The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course

Worth Pondering…
Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.

—Jalal Ad-Din Rumi