Visit the Hi-Desert Nature Museum!

Article Courtesy of the Hi-Desert Nature Museum

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.

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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.

The Hi-Desert Nature Museum continues to be an educational staple for residents and visitors to the Morongo Basin. The museums maintains a rotating exhibit space that highlights themes of nature, art, or culture as well as a permanent local natural history room with displays of geology, fossils, insects, and animal taxidermy. For those interested in local culture, there is a collaborative exhibit done with the Malki Museum as well as information on homesteading and mining in the high desert. Children of all ages are also welcome to explore the “Kids Corner,” which replicates an old pioneer schoolhouse filled educational reading materials and activities encouraging imaginative play.

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