California Fool’s Gold — An Antelope Valley Primer

WHERE THE DEER AND THE ANTELOPE PLAY — THE ANTELOPE VALLEY

Antelope Valley California

The Antelope Valley is a large region located in the western edge of the Mojave Desert situated between the Tehachapi and the San Gabriel Mountains. It is neighbored by the regions of Kern County/The Central Valley to the north, Northwest Los Angeles County to the west, Angeles Forest to the south andSan Bernadino County/The Inland Empire to the east. Historically it was home to the Kawaiisu, Kitanemuk, Serrano and Tataviam people. Spaniards invaded in the 1770s and conquered the land.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the Antelope ValleyPendersleigh & Sons‘ Official Map of the Antelope Valley

Antelope Valley’s name comes from the pronghorns which populated the area until the 1880s. Though more closely related to giraffes and okapi, the are wrongly but commonly referred to as “pronghorn antelopes.”

Pronghorn herd

 

Today, the main industries of the valley’s communities are aerospace, agriculture, manufacturing and mining. A population boom began in the 1980s and, in the the last ten years, the principle cities in the area, Lancaster and Palmdale, have passed Pomona to become the fifth and sixth largest cities in Los Angeles County. The population is approximately 50% white, 30% Latino (of any race), 13% black and 4% Asian.

And now an introduction to the communities of the Antelope Valley:

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ACTON

Acton, California

 

Acton is a small community founded above the valley floor in the Sierra Pelona Mountains in 1887 by gold miners. Its first hotel and saloon, The 49er, opened in 1889 and is still open for business. Acton appeared inArmy of Darkness, Blood Work, Duel, Little Miss Sunshine and Terminator 3. The videos for Radiohead‘s “High and Dry,” Metallica‘s “The Day That Never Comes,” and Tom Petty‘s “Swingin” were also filmed in various Acton locales. It’s also home to the Polsa Rosa Movie Ranch. Acton is also the least diverse community in the valley, with a population that’s 81% white (mostly German, Irish and Canadian) and 12% Latino (mostly Mexican).

DESERT RELIEF

Desert Relief was listed on U.S. Geological Survey maps at least as late as 1934. Nowadays there are about five houses in the area and not much else. Just east are the ruins of the old Llano Del Rio Company of Nevada commune.

HI VISTA

Church near Lancaster, California, used as a filming location in Quentin Tarantino's
Church near Lancaster, California, used as a filming location in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” films, Volumes 1 & 2 (2003, 2004). (JG Klein)

Hi Vista is an unincorporated community. It’s home to Calvary Baptist Church in Hi Vista, which was used as a filming location in Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill films.

JUNIPER HILLS

Juniper Hills
Juniper Hills (Source: Juniper Hills)

Juniper Hills is a small town located in the foothills on the northern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains, just west of the Devil’s Punchbowl County Park. The Juniper Hills Community Association was created in 1948 and maintains a community center.

LAKE LOS ANGELES

Lake Los Angeles

 

Tiny Lake Los Angeles is the youngest and poorest community in the valley. The lake of the name is a dry one located beneath the Lovejoy Buttes. Beginning in the 1930s, it was a popular filming location, especially in the TV series Bonanza. The population is 47% white (mostly German), 36% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 10% black.

LANCASTER

Downtown Lancaster (Image source: National Resources Defense Council Blog)
Downtown Lancaster (Image source: National Resources Defense Council Blog)

Lancaster is the ninth fastest growing city in the US and is the largest city in Antelope Valley. It was founded by real estate developer M.L. Wicks in the late 19th century. In the 1970s, it was home to the Flat Earth Society. In films, it was a location for Rob Zombie‘s The Devil’s Rejects. The grooved Civic Musical Road, when driven across, plays Gioachino Rossini‘s “William Tell Overture” (albeit out-of-tune). The population is 53% white (mostly German), 24% Latino (mostly Mexican), 15% black and 4% Asian (mostly Filipino).

LARGO VISTA

Largo Vista is small town located at the northern edge of Angeles National Forest.

LEONA VALLEY

Leona Valley

 

Affluent Leona Valley, located where the Sierra Pelona Mountains meet the Mojave Desert, is the wealthiest community in the Antelope Valley. The land was purchased in 1913 by Frank D. Hall who established a dairy farm in the Leonis Valley (which he renamed, “Leona”). The farm failed and in 1922, it was subdivided and sold to new residents. Today, the residents are 80% white (mostly German and English), 7% Latino and 6% Asian (mostly Vietnamese and Indian).

LLANO

Ruins of Llano del Rio, near Llano (source: Center for Land Use Interpretation)

Llano is a small town with a population of about 1200. Just north of town are the ruins of the Llano Del Rio Company of Nevada commune.

NEENACH

Neenach

 

Neenach is a small farm town of about 800 people. It was founded in the 1870s by Danish settlers from Neenah, Wisconsin.
NORTHEAST ANTELOPE VALLEY

Piute Ponds
Piute Ponds (image source: Bill Cullen)

Northeast Antelope Valley is a sparsely-populated area of the valley. Within its borders is the separate community of Lake Los Angeles. The mostly flat terrain is punctuated with several mountains and buttes. There are several parks and wildlife sanctuaries, including the Alpine Butte Wildlife Sanctuary, the Carl O Gerhardy Wildlife Sanctuary, the Mescal Wildlife Sanctuary, Saddleback Butte State Park, Butte Valley Wildflower Sanctuary, the Phacelia Wildlife Sanctuary and the Theodore Payne Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s also home to the Antelope Valley Indian Museum. Since Antelope Valley is a true desert, it is something of a surprise that the largest freshwater wetlands in the county are located there, the Piute Ponds. The ponds are part of the Harley Berhow Recreational Area and support 200 varieties of migratory birds including the Black-crowned night heron, the Great heron, the Great horned owl, and the Western snowy plover. The human residents are 62% white (mostly German and English), 25% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 8% black.

NORTHWEST ANTELOPE VALLEY

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

 

Northwest Antelope Valley is a another sparsely-populated area of the valley. The population is 78% white (mostly German and English) and 14% Latino (mostly Mexican). Its Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve draws many visitors who come to enjoy rolling fields of the California state flower. It’s also home to the Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park, Desert Pines Wildlife Sanctuary and Fairmont Reservoir.

PALMDALE

Palmdale California

 

Palmdale was established in 1886 by mostly German and Swiss Lutherans from the Middle West. Today its population is 41% white (mostly German), 38% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 14% black and 4% Asian. It wasn’t incorporated until 1962. It’s been mentioned or featured in the films Mac and Me, Star Trek Generations, Volcano, Bubble Boy, Star Trek Nemesis, The Day after Tomorrow, The Terminal, Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End and Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen as well as sung about by Afroman and Frank Zappa.

QUARTZ HILL

Quartz Hill

 

Quartz Hill is a small town that until the 1970s was largely agricultural, with crops of almonds, alfalfa, as well as turkey farms. With water diverted, alfalfa crops dried up. The almond orchards were destroyed by disease. Nowadays the economy is driven by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Gruman, Staples, Boston Scientific and Starbucks. The population is 74% white (mostly German and Irish), 15% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 6% black.

SOUTHEAST ANTELOPE VALLEY & PEARBLOSSOM

Blalock Wildlife Sanctuary

 

Southeast Antelope Valley is another sparsely-populated area of the valley. Within its borders are Lake Palmdale, the Blalock Wildlife Sanctuary and Pearblossom Park. Its southern portion is dominated by Angeles National Forest. The population is 76% white (mostly German and Irish) and 16% Latino (mostly Mexican and Colombian).

SUN VILLAGE

Sun Village, California

 

Sun Village began as one of the few places blacks were allowed to buy homes and it’s still home of the Jackie Robinson County Park. With the passage of fair housing and nondiscrimination laws, black residents largely left for other areas. Today the population is 47% white (mostly German), 39% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 11% black. Frank Zappa’s music early music career was associated with the town and he commemorated it with his song, “Village of the Sun.”

VALYERMO

Valyermo is a small town with a population of about 450. It is the home of Saint Andrew’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery.
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And so Antelope fans, to vote for any towns in the Antelope Valley or any other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here. And remember, don’t squat with your spurs on!

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, or listicles and jobs must pay more than slave wages as he would rather write for pleasure than for peanuts. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

13 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — An Antelope Valley Primer

    1. You’re right. I must’ve found that picture on the internet and not realized that it was the wrong abbey. If you think of it and take a picture, I’ll replace it and credit you. Otherwise, I’ll make it up there someday.

      Like

  1. Great Report on the Antelope Valley, however since 2015 the Hispanic Community in that area were more then 67% and you report didn’t reflect that.

    Like

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