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By Mel Makaw
contributing writer 

Ridgecrest's Maturango Museum

Day Trippin' with Mel


December 9, 2023

Mel Makaw.

The Maturango Museum has a great display on the history of the region.

The Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest is a little gem in the desert. I typically get to visit the museum a couple of times a year; my most recent trip was this last October on a sunny but not too warm fall day. And as usual, while there, I always see something new.

This time, to my delight, the new things I saw were in fact, new things. More artifacts and other additions in the outdoor garden display, and of course the latest art display in the galleries.

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, especially in promoting local artists.

The museum has a large gift shop and clean accessible restrooms, and features a permanent room 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 the era. 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 happened to be there at the end of one show so I can't tell you what to expect now, except to say that it is sure to be worth the drive (it always is).

The art shows usually run around 4 months in the gallery; photography exhibitions often stay up longer. The current show, I discovered online, is the Desert Artists League "Creativity" Gallery Exhibit, which runs through December 30.

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 on hot summer days, but there is also an outside area that's pretty interesting, if you're up to it (fall and spring are best to enjoy the outdoor displays, but they are set up for year-round enjoyment).

The Gladys Merrick Garden features a variety of metal sculptures and local vegetation – and they have added quite a few other additions, including covers for the picnic tables – 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 the park that houses the museum 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 Makaw.

The region around Ridgecrest wasn't always a desert, as explained by a display in the Maturango Museum.

If you go, take Highway 58 east to Mojave, then take the 14 freeway 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 the 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.)

© 2023 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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