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By Mel White-Mel Makaw
contributing writer 

Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest

Day Trippin' with Mel


August 6, 2022

Mel White/Mel Makaw

A large labyrinth outside the Maturango is a popular spot for visitors.

I feel fortunate that we have so many small museums in our area, and each museum I go to presents a unique experience, different from the others. Case in point for this time is the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest.

Founded in 1962 with a mission "to preserve, interpret and develop an appreciation for the natural and cultural history of the Northern Mojave Desert through research and education in the natural and physical sciences," the museum also works to promote the arts.

In addition to a large gift shop and clean accessible restrooms, the museum features a permanent area that highlights the area's natural history, which features the flora and fauna of the area as well as the unique and famous Coso petroglyphs, earthquake information and the volcanic history. Of course mining and the first native Californians are also included in the displays.

To promote the arts, the museum offers art shows that are changed out every few months, featuring local artists in various media. I like to go every few months just to see the ever changing and wonderful art on display.

This time I was particularly struck by the photography of Bruce Haydlauff (titled "Night Sky"), but several other artists were also on display when I was there. In another gallery room, several photographers are featured showing California wildflowers, and yet another room featured various artworks including jewelry, metal art, sculpture and paintings by various artists.

I found out from a docent that the art shows usually run around 4 months in the gallery; photography exhibitions often stay up longer.

In addition to the displays, the museum also offers tours of the local petroglyphs (usually not in the heat of the summer months), lectures on archeology, concerts, an annual wildflower show, star parties at the museum observatory and much more.

The museum itself is air conditioned and quite comfortable, even in these hot days, but there is also an outside area that's pretty interesting, if you're up to it. The Gladys Merrick Garden features quite a few metal sculptures and local vegetation, but the centerpiece is the giant labyrinth. Even on hot days I love to walk round and round the rocks and do a little meditating.

And, if you're up to more walking, the rest of Jackson Park has a number of paths that walk through even more metal art and petroglyphs (some of which are also visible from China Lakes Road).

Mel White/Mel Makaw

Many metal sculptures are featured in the garden outside Maturango.

If you go, take the 58 east to Mojave, then take the 14/395 north. Take the 178 east exit, through Inyokern and on to Ridgecrest. The museum is located at 100 E Las Flores Ave, which is right off of 178 (178 is now China Lake Blvd). The entrance to the museum, which is part of the Leroy Jackson Park, is at the stoplight.

The museum is open every day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for major holidays.

Admission is free to members, otherwise $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors; military members and families are free. Free admission is offered to everyone on the second Saturday of each month. (Note: the gift shop and information areas, including the outside garden area, are always free.)

© 2022 Mel White/Mel Makaw. Mel is a local writer and photographer and avid day-tripper; she welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions at


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