Antelope Valley: High Desert Oasis with Aerospace Dominance

Antelope Valley California

The Antelope Valley is a 3,000-square-mile high desert closed basin that sweeps across northern Los Angeles County and southern Kern County. The community of Palmdale and Lancaster are the major centers. Defense and aerospace industries dominate the economy. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and NASA are prominent employers.

The region is also home to a wide range of cultural offerings, including theater and music performances, unique workshops, and local events.


The Antelope Valley, named for the pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) that roamed its territory in the 19th century, lies in the north end of Los Angeles County and the southeast portion of Kern County. It is located in the western tip of the Mojave Desert and is surrounded by the Tehachapis, Sierra Pelonas, and San Gabriel Mountains.

The main airport in the region is Palmdale Regional Airport (PMD IATA). It is a 1-hour drive from Los Angeles International (1 hr 15 min) and 1 hr 30 min from Bakersfield Meadows Field (BFL IATA). There is also local bus service provided by the Antelope Valley Transit Authority, which provides transportation throughout the valley and connections to cities like Los Angeles and West Los Angeles.

The area is home to Edwards Air Force Base, a major aerospace employer for the valley. The base is responsible for the testing and integration of new military aircraft equipment, from proof-of-concept X-planes to space shuttle operations. Other prominent employers in the area include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman.


The Antelope Valley is a predominantly English-speaking area. A variety of public schools and a local community college offer education opportunities for residents. Health care is provided by the Antelope Valley Hospital and Palmdale Regional Medical Center. A number of stores and restaurants serve the needs of residents.

In the mid-20th century, defense and aerospace industries supplanted agriculture as the area’s primary economy. People came to work at Muroc Dry Lake and Edwards Air Force Base in the World War II era and stayed, raising families in the area. Today, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing are the region’s most significant employers.

During the 1990s, a new wave of nonwhite families moved to Sun Village, creating a shift in the racial makeup of the neighborhood. Some of the influx was motivated by the rise in Los Angeles home prices and a desire to escape the city’s notorious crime rates. Others were upwardly mobile, seeking a rural location that would allow them to raise their children in a safer environment with better schools.


The region’s economy is dominated by aerospace and defense contractors, including those who work at Edwards Air Force Base, Air Force Plant 42, and other military sites. Major industries also include agriculture, with carrots and onions being a primary crop. In addition, a borax mine is located in the northern mountains of the valley.

The area’s population has boomed since the construction of a railroad in 1867, and it continues to grow today. A new era began with the building of the BNSF railway line, which opened the AV to trade with other parts of the country and the world.

New housing development has been booming in the valley, and median home prices have recently surpassed those of 1989. The transition has not been easy for some residents, however. Documented pockets of white supremacist activity and neo-Nazi gangs, combined with a rapidly growing population and periods of economic unsteadiness, have fueled gang violence and hate crimes in the AV.


There are several attractions in the city of Lancaster. The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is famous for its annual wildflower bloom in spring. This spectacular sight sees the hills adorned with vibrant orange poppies. During this time, visitors are encouraged to hike the miles of trails and experience the fresh clean Los Angeles County air.

The Lancaster Museum of Art and History is another place to visit in the city. This modern looking museum houses a variety of exhibitions for all age groups. Its permanent collections include everything from local dinosaur and native artifacts to postwar Californian art.

Another popular attraction in the city is Saddleback Butte State Park, which features a granite mountaintop and miles of sweeping views. The park also hosts many community-based events like plays and high energy music concerts. It is also home to the Rural Olympics Hall of Fame, which honors stars in events like a hay-loading contest. The Marie Kerr Park is another popular entertainment destination in the city, hosting high energy concerts performances throughout the year.

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