Between the Colorado River and Big Maria Mountains, nestled in the California desert, are a set of mysterious and ancient gigantic ground drawings known as the Blythe Intaglios or Blythe Geoglyphs. Hidden for centuries, only local tribes knew these fascinating markings existed, and even today, you’re likely to see very few people if you visit, due to the sheer scale of the site. Here’s why you should go and see these incredible intaglios.
What Are the Blythe Intaglios?
Intaglios are a specific type of geoglyph or ground drawing created by scraping away layers of rocks to reveal the soil underneath. Think of them as ginormous pictographs drawn in the dirt instead of on a cave wall. Locally, there are more than 200 intaglios, most of which are within walking distance of the Colorado River, however, the Blythe Intagliosare the most famous of these—and likely the only ones you’ll be able to find.
They’re also the most impressive intaglios—even from the ground. They feature three human figures, two four legged creatures, and a spiral. The largest of the human figures measures 171 feet—roughly half a football field, from head to toe. The other two human figures both stretch more than 100 feet. In addition, the two animals are each more than 50 feet across from head to tail. Impressive not only in size, but also in age, they’re dated somewhere between 450-2000 years old.
Seen From Above
Despite their size, the Blythe Intaglios were only known to local tribes until in 1932, a pilot flew over the site and spotted them. A few researchers studied and sketched the intaglios, but otherwise, they generated little public interest. In fact, during World War II, tanks and troops training in the area may have unwittingly damaged these ancient creations.
In 1952, a National Geographic article on the Blythe Intaglios changed public perception and saw a rise in interest. People began to visit at increasing volumes, leading to even more damage, and in 1974, the Bureau of Land Management erected fences to protect them.