Antelope Valley is located in northern Los Angeles County, California and the southeast portion of Kern County, California, and constitutes the western tip of the Mojave Desert. It is situated between the Tehachapi and the San Gabriel Mountains. The valley was named for the pronghorns that roamed there until being eliminated by bad weather in the 1880s and hunters. The principal cities in the Antelope Valley are Palmdale and Lancaster.
The Antelope Valley comprises the western tip of the Mojave Desert, opening up to the Victor Valley and the Great Basin to the east. Lying north of the San Gabriel Mountains and southeast of the Tehachapis, this desert ecosystem spans approximately 2,200 square miles (5,698 km2). Precipitation in the surrounding mountain ranges contributes to groundwater recharge.
Flora and fauna
The Antelope Valley is home to a wide range of plants and animals. This includes hundreds of plants such as the California Juniper, Joshua tree, California Scrub Oak, Creosote, and wildflowers, notably the California poppy. Winter brings much-needed rain which slowly penetrates the area's dry ground, bringing up native grasses and wildflowers. Poppy season depends completely on the precipitation, but a good bloom can be killed off by the unusual weather in the late winter and early spring months.
The Antelope Valley gets its name from its history of pronghorn grazing in large numbers. In 1882-85, the valley lost 30,000 head of antelope, almost half of the species for which it was named. Unusually heavy snows in both the mountains and the valley floor drove the antelope toward their normal feeding grounds in the eastern part of the valley. Since they would not cross the railroad tracks, many of them starved to death. The remainder of these pronghorn were hunted for their fur by settlers. Once abundant, they either died off or migrated into the Central Valley. A drought in the early 1900s caused a scarcity in bunch grass, their main food source. Now the sighting of a pronghorn is rare, although there are still a small number in the western portion of the valley.
Human water use in the Antelope Valley depends mainly on pumping of groundwater from the valley's aquifers and on importing additional water from the California Aqueduct. Long-term groundwater pumping has lowered the water table, thereby increasing pumping lifts, reducing well efficiency, and causing land subsidence.
While aqueducts supply additional water that meets increasing human demand for agricultural, industrial, and domestic uses, diversion of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in northern California has caused and causes adverse environmental and social effects in the delta:
"Over decades, [the] competing uses for water supply and habitat have jeopardized the Delta’s ability to meet either need. All stakeholders agree the estuary is in trouble and requires long-term solutions to ensure reliable, quality water supplies and a healthy ecosystem."
The Antelope Valley's population growth and development place considerable stress on the local and regional water systems. According to David Leighton of the United States Geological Survey (USGS):
"A deliberate management effort will be required to meet future water demand in the Antelope Valley without incurring significant economic and environmental costs associated with overuse of the ground-water resource."
The first peoples of the Antelope Valley include the Kawaiisu, Kitanemuk, Serrano, and Tataviam. Europeans first entered in the 1770s during the colonization of North America. Father Francisco Garces, a Spanish Franciscan friar, is believed to have traveled the west end of the valley in 1776. The Spanish established El Camino Viejo through the western part of the valley between Los Angeles and the missions of the San Francisco Bay in the 1780s. By 1808, the Spanish had moved the native people out of the valley and into missions.
Jedediah Smith came through in 1827, and John C. Fremont made a scientific observation of the valley in 1844. After Fremont's visit the 49ers crossed the valley via the Old Tejon Pass into the San Joaquin Valley on their way to the gold fields. Later, a better wagon road, the Stockton – Los Angeles Road route to Tejon Pass, followed in 1854. Stagecoach lines across the southern foothills came through the valley along this wagon road, and were the preferred method for travelers before the coming of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876. The rail service linking the valley to the Central Valley and Los Angeles started its first large influx of white settlers, and farms and towns soon sprouted on the valley floor.
The aircraft (now called aerospace) industry took hold in the valley at Plant 42 in 1952. Edwards AFB, then called Muroc Army Air Field, was established in 1933.
In recent decades the valley has become a bedroom community to the Greater Los Angeles area. Major housing tract development and population growth took off beginning in 1983, which has increased the population of Palmdale around 12 times its former size as of 2006. Neighboring Lancaster has increased its population since the early 1980s to around three times its former level. Major retail has followed the population influx, centered on Palmdale's Antelope Valley Mall. The Antelope Valley is home to over 475,000 people.
Non-Hispanic whites make up approximately 48% of the population of the Antelope Valley and form a majority or plurality in most of its cities and towns. Hispanics are the next largest group, followed by African Americans and Asian Americans.
Some long-term residents living far out in the desert have been cited by Los Angeles County's Nuisance Abatement Teams for code violations, forcing them to make improvements or move. One of the properties is a church building which was used as a filming location for Kill Bill. The code enforcers have arrived on some of their visits in SWAT team formats.
Edwards Air Force Base lies east of Rosamond, 37 miles (60 km) northeast of Palmdale. Edwards AFB's dry lakebeds are the lowest geographic elevation in the valley. Significant amounts of U.S. military flight testing are performed there, and it has been the site of many important aeronautical accomplishments, including the first flight to break the sound barrier, accomplished by Chuck Yeager.
NASA space shuttles originally landed at Edwards because the lake beds offer a vast landing area. Although NASA later built a huge landing strip at Kennedy Space Center, Edwards was retained as the backup in case of bad weather at Cape Canaveral.
NASA Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center is a tenant organization at Edwards AFB. The Center is best known for the X-15 experimental rocket ship program. It has been the home of NASA's high-performance aircraft research since it was founded for the X-1 program. The Space Shuttle Orbiter was serviced there when it landed at Edwards.
The Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra is a professional ensemble that performs four concerts each year at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center. It is an auxiliary of Antelope Valley College, and performs regularly with the Antelope Valley College Civic Orchestra.
- Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, home to California's state flower
- Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park
- Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park
- Saddleback Butte State Park
- Devil's Punchbowl County Park
Major highways and roads
- Angeles Forest Highway, a key county road, connects Palmdale with Angeles Crest Highway as an alternate route to the Los Angeles basin.
- The Antelope Valley Freeway (State Route 14)
- State Route 18 (connects SR 138 east of Palmdale to Victor Valley and U.S.Route 395) There is currently a proposal to turn this into a freeway.
- State Route 138 (of which Pearblossom Highway comprises the eastern leg)
- State Route 58 (freeway status now that the new Mojave bypass has been completed)
- U.S. Route 395 (which technically lies east of the Valley proper)
On the ridgeline of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Angeles Crest Highway (State Route 2) snakes 60 miles (100 km) through the Angeles National Forest to La Cañada Flintridge and the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan region.
- Union Pacific serves the Antelope Valley with freight service on their route between Palmdale and Mojave, with continuing service to points south, southeast and north. BNSF Railway serves Mojave with freight service to/from the east, and to/from Richmond CA to the west.
- Metrolink passenger rail service to the Los Angeles Basin and other parts of Southern California provides service to Antelope Valley commuters at its Lancaster, Palmdale, and Vincent Grade/Acton stations.
- Amtrak passenger rail service has a commuter bus that stops at the Palmdale Transportation Center and the Lancaster Metrolink station, connecting Antelope Valley residents to the national rail network.
- The California High Speed Rail authority has designated Palmdale as a stop on the future rail line between San Francisco and San Diego.
- The Antelope Valley Transit Authority is the local city-bus system for metropolitan Palmdale and Lancaster. The service also operates a commuter bus network from its hubs at the Palmdale Transportation Center and the Lancaster Park & Ride to several locations in Los Angeles.
- Greyhound Bus has stops at the Palmdale Transportation Center and the Lancaster Metrolink station.
- Palmdale Regional Airport, co-sited with USAF Plant 42 is by far the largest and busiest airport in the valley and is owned by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the Los Angeles city government entity which owns and operates LAX. Although mostly military flights occur at this airport, it also has an unused commercial terminal.
- General William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster is the valley's busiest general aviation airport. It is the fourth largest airport in the valley. Charter air service and helicopter rides are available. This airport also has the valley's only aviation school.
- Inyokern Airport in Inyokern, near Ridgecrest, is a large general aviation airport with limited commercial airline service to Los Angeles International Airport, serving the northern Antelope Valley and Indian Wells Valley communities. Charter service is also available. It is the area's third largest airport.
- Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave is a large civil aviation center and the second largest airport in the valley. Voyager and SpaceShipOne were developed and flown from its location.
- Mountain Valley Airport in Tehachapi is a gliderport, privately owned but open to the public, which offers glider training for civilian and military pilots
- Tehachapi Municipal Airport in Tehachapi is a small general aviation airport.
- Agua Dulce Airpark in Agua Dulce is a medium-sized general aviation airport.
- Rosamond Skypark Airport in Rosamond is a small general aviation airport, privately owned and operated.
- California City Municipal Airport in California City is a small general aviation airport.
- Crystalaire Airport in Llano is a small airstrip principally dedicated to glider flights.
Valley place names
Cities over 100,000 population
- Lancaster (population as of 2012, 159,055) - incorporated in 1977
- Palmdale (population as of 2012, 155,650) - incorporated in 1962
Cities less than 100,000 population
- California City (population 14,828) - incorporated in 1965
Unincorporated towns and districts
Over 10,000 population
Under 10,000 population
- Acton (technically in the San Gabriel Mountains) (7,596)
- Agua Dulce (technically in the San Gabriel Mountains) (4,254)
- Antelope Acres (3,059)
- Boron (2,253)
- Del Sur (1,750)
- Elizabeth Lake (technically in the Leona Valley) (1,756)
- Inyokern (technically in the Indian Wells Valley)
- Juniper Hills (1,101)
- Lake Hughes (technically in the Leona Valley)
- Leona Valley (technically in the Leona Valley)
- Littlerock (1,377)
- Llano (739)
- Mojave (4,238)
- Monolith (technically in the Tehachapi Valley)
- Neenach (560)
- North Edwards
- Pearblossom (2,435)
- Pinon Hills (technically in the Victor Valley)
- Valyermo (691)
- Wilsona Gardens (210)
- Willow Springs (1,784)
Images for kids
Chuck Yeager with Glamorous Glennis at Muroc, circa 1947
Antelope Valley Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.