Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Woodland Preserve in Lancaster

Day Trippin' with Mel

I was not aware of the existence of the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve in Lancaster until I read a post on Facebook that said a friend, Tehachapi/Bear Valley Springs artist Tina Dille, had artwork on display there. So I put it on my to-do list and my friend and day-trippin' pal Leila Kleiman and I took off last Wednesday to check it out.

What a great find!

A little gem in the middle of the city, the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve was originally proposed in 1985 and established to teach visitors about the flora and fauna and geology and history of the area. There are three miles of well-groomed and accessible trails through the acreage, complete with information boards so you know what you're looking at.

We didn't walk all the trails but being in this little preserve made me totally forget I was in the middle of an urban area. I could just totally relax and enjoy being in nature (it was 10 degrees warmer in Lancaster than Tehachapi the day we were there; the sky was particularly blue and there was no wind!). What a wonderfully unexpected feeling.

It was worth it enough to discover this great little nature preserve, but the Elyze Clifford Interpretive Center – the visitor center – was an even more special treat. That's where Tina's paintings of ravens are hung, along with so many other items of interest to the area. By the way, Tina's artwork, entitled "The Muse," did not disappoint!

The center itself, named for noted environmentalist Elizabeth Elyze Clifford (1926-1990) – is a unique straw-bale construction, explained in detail inside the building. It features not only artwork like Tina's (arranged through the Museum of Art History in Lancaster) but also a number of Native American artifacts, fossils, skeletons, geological finds and tons of historical information about the area. Featured too are many of the paper mache artworks of desert animals and reptiles made in adult and children's workshops at the center.

A lot of the displays are hands-off, but there is a "touch table" that features snake skins, tortoise shells, sea shells, a star fish, skulls, and a dinosaur claw. Also, the center features a large bin full of bark chips in which you can dig and find various gems and arrow heads. A relatively new addition is a chalk wall on which you can create your own petroglyph or pictograph.

It was an open visitor day when we were there, but the center offers a number of classes and activities on other days when the place is closed to the public. Some of these activities include kids' art classes, special nature presentations and tours, moonlight walks and other community events. You can find out more on their Facebook page named Prime Desert Woodland Preserve.

If you go, the easiest way to get there is to take the 58 East to Mojave, then jump on the 14 South to Lancaster. Take the L Street exit in Lancaster and go west all the way to 35th Street West. Turn north (right) on 35th and in a few blocks is the entrance to the Preserve to your left. The Preserve is located at the intersection of K-8 and 35th Street West (43201 35th St W).

The whole area is wheelchair and stroller accessible, with outdoor porta potties and nice, wide, mostly flat trails. No dogs (not even on a leash), no alcohol. No bicycles. Great for running or walking. Trail maps are available in the interpretive center.

The Preserve is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. but note, the Elyze Clifford Interpretive Center is only open on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, you can call the center at 723-6257 or the Museum of Art and History at (661) 723-6251.

The preserve and the interpretive center are free of charge, but of course donations are always welcome.

Leila and I both really enjoyed visiting the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve and especially seeing Tina's artwork and all the Elyze Clifford Interpretive Center has to offer; I think you'll enjoy it too!

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