Author shares passion for the desert with Pioneers' Museum audience

October 30, 2001|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

In 1966 Canadian-born Diana Lindsay experienced the lure of the desert for the first time.

Friday night, Lindsay, now the author of three acclaimed books, two with the Anza-Borrego Desert as their subject, shared her passion with Imperial Valley residents.

Lindsay's lecture and slide show at Pioneers' Museum in the Imperial area attracted some 50 locals as well as a smattering of early snowbirds who took the opportunity to learn a little more about a fascinating part of their winter home.

Putting a map of the park on the screen, Lindsay made the point that, "Anza-Borrego is your neighbor but many of you think you have to travel far on vacation … that you have to visit Yosemite or Death Valley. But you actually have a world-class state park right here at home."


Lindsay described Anza-Borrego as the largest state park in California and arguably the largest contiguous park in the United States outside Alaska.

In 1928 the California Legislature wanted to create a state park system. It hired Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to survey lands in California and make recommendations.

Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape architecture, is famous for his design work for New York's Central Park and closer to home, his work on Balboa Park in San Diego.

In 1929 Olmsted's survey was completed and he claimed the Anza-Borrego area was so outstanding and had so many resources it should be designated as a national park .

But his concern that there was not enough time to create a national park resulted in a recommendation to make Anza-Borrego the base for the state park system.

"Actually that turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Anza-Borrego," Lindsay told her audience. "People tend to dismiss a state park as not being as good as a national park; the park has been far less impacted than many of the national parks because of this."

Today the park covers 652,000 acres.

Anza-Borrego was not always treated as gently as it is today. Lindsay described how during World War II Army and Navy pilots used parts of the Creosote Impact area as a bombing range.

"Because of the vivid red color in this region, it made an ideal practice target" Lindsay said.

"Part of the reason this area is closed today is because unexploded bombs continue to be found in this area, usually after a flash flood has come through" she explained.

Lindsay's lecture gave a sweeping overview of an area rich in fossils, plant life and geographical features.

"It's a park that has a tremendous amount of variety because of the varying elevations … it has elevations of 6,000 feet in the Santa Rosa Mountains right down to areas below sea level out here in Imperial Valley," she noted.

At the close of her presentation Lindsay noted, "Geologic time moves so slowly and our life span is so short … when you look at Anza-Borrego, this is the scene that prehistoric Indians actually looked at. This is the same scene our great-, great-grandchildren are going to see — as long as this area stays preserved."

Lindsay, who served 18 years as an Anza-Borrego Foundation board member and lives in San Diego, will be coming back to Imperial Valley on Nov. 16 to present an hour long lecture and slide show on Anza-Borrego at El Centro City Library at 539 State St. The presentation will start at 7 p.m.

For visitor information on Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, visit or

Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337- 3442 or

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