(A Bubba Adventure - By Bob "Bubba" Peters)


I've always dreamed of viewing firsthand the geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana in Peru.  Needless to say, economics and time have not permitted such a treat.  But!  I recently learned, that for those willing and able to spend the time to search, there are geoglyphs galore scattered across the Southwest desert floor just waiting to be rediscovered or discovered for the first time...

What's a geoglyph?  It's a giant drawing created by removing the very thin dark, baked layer of pebbles on the smooth desert floor to reveal the lighter soil underneath.  If you came across one of these works of art while walking, you would most likely mistake the lines for game or cattle trails.  But from the air, their real identity is unmistakable.

While visiting Quartzsite, Arizona this winter, I learned from local pilots that there are at least eight geoglyphs left by ancient Indians within a 50 mile radius of the town.  So, with GPS in hand, I began my quest to find as many as possible.


The Terrain

The terrain to these giant works of art scrawled upon the desert floor can be incredibly rugged.  The view as you fly up dry washes between ridges still sharp after millions of years from lack of water and weather is like looking back in time.  This alone makes the trip worth the effort.

(Click on any picture for a much closer view)


The Fisherman

The Fisherman was my first success.  It lay in the foothills of the Plomosa Mountains not far from a paved road from Quatzsite to Bouse.  This is the only geoglyph with controversy over who drew it.  Most scientists agree it was made by Native Americans, but a few others think it may have been sculpted back in the 1930's.    You can see a bird, the sun, water and two fish around the fisherman himself.  The drawing has been fenced to protect it.  I understand this is true of most geoglyphs in Arizona and California.  In my opinion, these are well spent tax dollars .

GPS coordinates: N33.47.279  W114.05.372


The Snake

I found The Snake about 12 miles East of Parker on the Shea Road (pronounced Shay).  The fence around it is set over 100 yards back from the geoglyph so it is not so obvious that the fence is protecting something.  A good idea.  At first, the art really does look like a game trail. Under closer inspection though, the intent of the artist is clear.  Look closely and you can see the eyes on one end and the rattler on the other.

GPS coordinates: N34.07. 263  W114.04.260


Geoglyph Pilot

After landing, I discovered the muffler on my SD48 paramotor had popped it's rivets and was falling off.  I would have to return to Casa Grande and the Phoenix Regional Airport (PRA) to have my friends, Jerry and Michelle Danielle send me a new one.  So ended my first sojourn in search of the eight known geoglyphs in the area.



The Intaglios


One week later, after attending the ParaToys PPG Convention at the Salton Sea, our friends Wayne and Susan Mitchler from Sky Biker Aviation in Canada joined us in our search for the remaining 6 geoglyphs, The Intaglios (pronounced in-tar'-y-oes).  These were easily found just North of Blythe, CA at the feet of the Big Maria Mountains.  The largest was over 170 feet tall.  The amazingly inhospitable landscape and viewing the Intaglios from the air was a real treat.

GPS coordinates: N33 48 00.0 - W114 32 00.0  (All six Intaglios)



Without GPS capability, the best way to locate the Blythe Intaglios is by driving about 20 miles north of Blythe along the Colorado River. Follow the water North to a point where homes dot the shore line.  You'll see State signs marking the road to the sites.  From there, go west a short distance to a group of small mesas with a network of dirt roads going seemingly nowhere.


These giant ground paintings depict geometric designs, human form and animal figures. Many have withstood the test of wind, rain and time, others having fallen recent victim to motorcycles, SUV's, quads and General George S. Patton's tank-training exercises during WWII.

Wayne Mitchler


Wayne flew over one of the geoglyphs below me.  This photo helps put the size of the Intaglios into perspective.



Lion or Horse?

Powered paragliding over two of the Blythe Intaglios show representations of a large animal with a long tail.  Is it a horse or a mountain lion?  Most experts believe the latter.  The pointed ears pointing up and down and the long tail is why.  But, the main reason is the age of the geoglyphs.  If they are indeed many hundreds or even thousands of years old, there were no horses on the continent at the time of their creation.  Horses weren't introduced into the area until the Spanish explorers arrived on the scene a mere 600 hundred years ago.

These intaglios are said to the be “most famous” in America.  They are attributed to the Yuman-speaking tribes and were “used during ritual pilgrimages made along the Colorado River” when individuals would travel from the Land of the Dead to the place of creation, from south to north.  The Blythe intaglios are said to depict their creator deity, Mastamho, as well as a mountain lion which served as his spirit helper, and perhaps Kaatar, his evil twin brother.  Scientific dating can place the creation of these images to 1100 years ago.



Since flying these sites I've discovered that there are actually over 600 known geoglyphs spread across the Southwest.  So, there remains ample fodder for more powered paragliding quests for Ancient Geoglyphs.



Photos and article by
Bob "Bubba" Peters

With some help from Ron Kilber