Out in the desert north of Blythe, CA, not far from the Colorado River, ancient native people cleared away the dark colored rock on the surface of flat plateaus to reveal the light colored gravel beneath it. In doing this, they “drew” a number of figures and designs. These are the Blythe Intaglios.
I’m staying in Quartzsite, AZ this month, about 35 minutes from the site. I’ve flown over it with my helicopter a handful of times starting at least 15 years ago. This time, I had a different aircraft with me, my Mavic Pro drone. I headed out about an hour before dawn to capture the site in first light.
As you might imagine, at 6:30 AM local time on a Monday morning, there wasn’t a crowd. In fact, other than a motor home that had obviously been parked overnight near the main road, I was the only one there. I got out with Penny and moved to the back of the truck to set up the drone with my iPad. I tried in vain to set up the Mavic for a live broadcast via Periscope, but the lowest quality image setting on the Mavic are still too high for Periscope and it just didn’t work. So I reset the video camera to 1080p — I seldom bother with 4K because my computer is too old and feeble to handle it — and launched.
In the east, the sun was struggling to get through some low, thin clouds. I should have waited, but I know from experience that sometimes waiting yields worse light. There was enough to see so I shot several flyby videos of all three fenced-in Intaglio areas. I think I flew for about 12-15 minutes before landing in the truck bed and downloading two of the videos to my iPad.
That’s when the light got good. I shut off the drone, popped out the battery, and snapped in a fresh one, then started up again I launched quickly and got the two shots you see here, along with a few others and some more flybys. This is exactly what I wanted: the figures in the foreground with the rugged desert mountains illuminated by the rising sun off in the distance. I flew for another 15 minutes or so.
The lower site has two fenced-off areas protecting three Intaglios. Can you see my truck in the photo?
The upper site has just one figure inside a fence. I suspect that due to the condition of the road (bumpy) and the fact that you really can’t see the figures from the ground, it has fewer visitors.
The site is protected now, but should have been protected earlier, like in the 1970s when vandals added the tire tracks. The fences were added in the 1980s.
The site is on BLM land and is free to visit 24/7/365.