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Taos, NM
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Lightning in the night sky

The Lightning Field by sculptor Walter De Maria is one of the late 20th century’s most intriguing and important works of land art.

Located in the remote high desert of New Mexico at an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level, The Lightning Field consists of 400 stainless steel poles placed in a grid array. Each pole is two inches in diameter and around 20 feet high, and the poles are spaced 220 feet apart.

Some describe standing in the center of the field and looking out to the distant mesas as a mind-altering experience. It is definitely an otherworldly one. Each pole has been meticulously planted so that the tips create a perfect horizontal plane within the desolate landscape. At sunrise and sunset, brilliant golden light reflects from the poles for one magical moment.

Lightning strikes are actually destructive to the work. Storms and lightning strikes have scarred and charred the earth around the base of the poles. And when lightning strikes a pole, it chars the pole as well, which then needs to be replaced to maintain the pristine visual of the field.

According to the project’s website, “A sculpture to be walked in as well as viewed, The Lightning Field is intended to be experienced over an extended period of time. A full experience of The Lightning Field does not depend upon the occurrence of lightning, and visitors are encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the field, especially during sunset and sunrise.”

Visiting the Lightning Field From Taos

The Lightning Field was commissioned in 1977 by the Dia Art Foundation. Hard to get to and difficult to find, the exact location of the site is a well-kept secret. But rest assured, it is in the middle of nowhere, and you are required to sign a waiver before visiting.

The Dia Art Foundation maintains a cabin adjacent to The Lightning Field, which provides shelter and simple meals during your visit. Bring protective clothing and boots or rugged shoes. No electronic devices are allowed, but you get a short-wave radio to contact the Dia office in the case of an emergency.

The site accommodates no more than six visitors per night, and camping is not permitted, so make reservations early. Reservations are accepted beginning March 1 for visits from May 1 until October 31. The Lightning Field does not accommodate day visits and visitors without reservations, so make sure to plan ahead!

Find more information on visiting the Lightning Field here.