In the summer of 1964, Evelyn Conklin responded to a newspaper ad requesting recreation ideas for the Yucca Valley Parks and Recreation Department. Having previously established the Trailside Nature Museum in Los Angeles with her father, Percy “Slim” Conklin, Evelyn responded with an idea for a local nature museum. Hence, the Hi-Desert Nature Museum was born. The Hi-Desert Nature Museum opened the doors to its 800 square foot building at Jacobs Park in October 1964, with its official grand opening occurring on January 21, 1965. As a naturalist and extensive traveler, Evelyn started the museum with many of her own collections. After nine years, the museum expanded and moved into its current location at the Yucca Valley Community Center complex. The museum collection has grown over the years with many donations coming from local community members.
From its inception, visitors would come to the Hi-Desert Nature Museum to identify and research local flora and fauna, including wildflowers, insects, and reptiles. Ms. Conklin also established many aspects of the museum which are still in place today, including the live animal mini-zoo, fluorescent geology display room, and a rotating local artist showcase. Evelyn was curator of the museum for twenty-eight years. The museum has been shaped over the years by the museum supervisors, with Mrs. Celeste Hilderbrand stepping into the current supervisor role in August of 2023.