A Crossroad in History
Victorville is a city located in the western Mojave Desert in the High Desert sub-region of San Bernardino County known as Victor Valley. Victorville is bordered by Apple Valley on the east, Hesperia on the south, and Adelanto on the west. At 20,105 square miles, San Bernardino County is the largest county by area in the U.S., exceeding the territory encompassed by New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
San Bernardino County is in the southeastern part of California and shares the Colorado River as its border with Nevada and Arizona to the east, and extends westward to the counties of Los Angeles and Orange. From the county’s southwestern most point, the Pacific Ocean is less than 20 miles away as the crow flies.
San Bernardino County is part of a region known as the “Inland Empire.” The southwest sliver of the county is geographically dissimilar from the rest of the county as it is split by the same transverse (east-west) mountain chain as divides Los Angeles County.
Of its over 2.1 million residents, only approximately 300,000 live north of the San Bernardino Mountains – mainly centered around Victorville – with the bulk of the population living in the southwestern corner nearer Riverside and Los Angeles counties. Another roughly 100,000 people are dispersed across the remainder of the gigantic county.
Los Angeles County’s San Gabriel mountain range becomes the San Bernardino mountain range at the county line, with a north-to-south boundary line dissecting the peak of Mt. San Antonio defining the border.
Rising 10,064 feet above sea level, the iconic landmark mountain is referred to as “Mt. Baldy” by Southern Californians due to its distinctive treeless, rocky summit rising above, and standing out and apart in stark contrast among the green, woodland peaks of neighboring mountains.
What is known today as Victorville, California was previously home to First Nation – “Indian” or “Native American” – people known as Serrano, and members of the Takic languages speaking community. The tribe name Serrano is Spanish for "highlander" or "mountaineer" and was forced upon the clan by Spanish missionaries at the end of the 1700s to conspicuously identity them apart from neighboring tribes.
Under orders from the Mexican Alta California government, in 1834, Serrano were violently removed from their homes and forced to relocate to the missions. Within six years, by 1840, many Serrano had died after contracting the European-originating smallpox; a disease against which they had no immunity. The Serrano came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government after it took over control of the territory with its victory in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. By 1860 the Serrano suffered another devastating smallpox outbreak.
The nadir of the Serrano experience came in 1867 when over a 32 day period the Yuhaviatam band of Serrano men, women and children were massacred at the hands of American settlers of the San Bernardino Valley in what is remembered as the Massacre at Chimney Rock.
For the 8,000 years preceding the arrival of the Spanish, a subgroup of Serrano called Vanyume lived along the Mojave River – a river flowing north from the San Bernardino Mountains – in a territory ranging just east of Barstow, to a point south of Victorville.
The Mojave River runs mostly below ground, breaching the surface in areas with impermeable rock. The above-ground flow is primarily limited to the Afton Canyon area northeast of Barstow, and the upper and lower narrows near Victorville where seasonal flooding may occur after a strong winter rain or summer thunderstorm.
1840s California pathfinder John Freemont knew the Mojave River area well, having explored the region in 1844. Freemont renamed the river “Mohahve” after the “Mohave,” a tribe living far to the east along the Colorado River. According to the Mojave Water Agency, Freemont chose the name Mohave because he learned of the river’s existence from the Mohave Indians living near Needles, California.
During the Civil War, thousands of wagons hauled material across the Mojave Desert. One main trail passed through what was then called Huntington’s Crossing, and what became known in 1901 as the town of Victorville. Victorville did not incorporate as a city until 1962.
At one time the Mojave River served as a reliable water source, and combined with the abundance of open land, created a combination well-suited for farming, and very early in the 20th century agriculture became king in Victorville. Locals back then mistakenly believed the Mojave River water supply was not only bountiful, but endless, and they were wrong.
Fruit trees were planted in large quantities, producing large yields of apples, pears, apricots, plums, grapes and alfalfa, and by the early 1950s the Mojave River was in overdraft – losing more water than was naturally replenished from rain and mountain snowmelt runoff. In 1960, California Real Estate Commissioner W.A. Savage issued a moratorium on development in the Victor Valley – a decree later overturned in court.
The scarcity of water in Victorville is evident today by a city hall-mandated watering schedule for residents, restricted by time and address. From June through September, residents may water only between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and the remaining months from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Addresses ending with a zero or even number may water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and odd numbered addressed homes on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No watering is allowed on Mondays.
Population / Elevation
115,903 / 2,726 feet above sea level
Weather / Climate
Victorville's summertime average high temperature marks at one degree and two degrees shy of hitting 100 in July and August respectively, but the region cools substantially after sundown with the average low for these two hottest months dipping down to a few notches above the 50s, at 61 degrees.
Due to its location relatively near north-facing foothills of a mountain range, any day in Victorville may be a slightly windy day. Whether it be a sustained, yet slight breeze of 4 mph, or one with steady wind twice the speed with gusts higher, some wind is the norm here, but wind is not as frequent, nor as stiff, in Victor Valley as it is further west in the High Desert communities of Lancaster and Palmdale in neighboring Antelope Valley.
Things to Do
Established in 1926, U.S. Route 66 runs from Chicago at the shore of Lake Michigan, to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Pier. Spanning two-thirds of the continent and stretching 2,400 miles, the highway is referred to as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America, and the Mother Road. After eviction from their home and farm in the Great Depression, Route 66 is the road driven by the Joad family from Oklahoma to California in the film, Grapes of Wrath.
The path was formed as a conglomeration of existing connecting roads merely being marked with the Route 66 highway sign. In Victorville, U.S. Route 66 is marked on D and Seventh streets and serves as the principal thoroughfare through Old Town Victorville.
It then continues south along Interstate 15, through the Cajon Pass, and down into the inland valley before turning west to Pasadena, as it then shadows the southern slope of the San Gabriel Mountain Range toward Los Angeles.
The California Route 66 Museum is located in Victorville at 16825 South D Street. The interactive museum’s compliment includes a 50s diner, a 1917 Model T Ford, and a VW Love Bus – sunglasses and hippy wigs available for photos. Commemorating the highway’s 90th anniversary in 2016, the Auto Club of Southern California Archives produced a video on the entire route, and the program includes information on attractions found along the way.
The Automobile Club of America is the organization responsible for the placement of U.S. Route 66 signs beside the highway from Chicago to Los Angeles after the federal government gave the road its official designation in 1926.
Nature, Wilderness & Recreation Areas
Mojave Narrows Regional Park is located in Victorville and offers horseback riding, Frisbee golf, fishing, hiking, and has a large picnic area. The park is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Its proximity to an old riverbed sets the natural environment for cottonwood and willow trees to flourish.
This oasis in the Mojave Desert has acres of waterways and provides habitat for over 1,500 species of watchable wildlife, so binoculars are a must. Paddleboats and rowboats are available for rent. Entrance fees apply and dogs are allowed, but are charged a $1 entrance fee and must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times.
Fifty miles to the northeast, past Barstow off Interstate 40 is Newberry Mountains Wilderness. The 26,102 acres are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Trails and water are nonexistent in this wilderness area so carrying drinking water and a topographical map is a necessity.
The Newberry Mountains Wilderness is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System – a conglomeration of land set aside to provide clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. The Newberry Mountains are volcanic in origin. The rugged terrain gains elevation on a gentle slope until reaching flat summits ranging in elevation from 2,200 feet up to 5,100 feet. Appropriate winter rain yields a spectacular wildflower display along the mountain’s western slope. Desert bighorn sheep pass through the range, and falcons and eagles hunt from the air.
Twenty-one miles south of Victorville and just off Interstate 15 is the geographic feature called “Mormon Rocks.” The rock formation was named by Mormon travelers passing through from Salt Lake City en route to Los Angeles, and is another example of the topographic peculiarity created by the San Andreas Fault in the San Andreas Rift Zone. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses I-15 at Cajon, less than one mile south of Highway 138 – the main east-west road linking Victor Valley with Antelope Valley.
Mormon Rocks can be seen from Interstate 15 (I-15), as it passes through Cajon Summit. At 4,190 feet above sea level, Cajon Summit at I-15 is the main arterial gateway into the High Desert in San Bernardino County. Interstate 15 is the interstate connecting Southern California to Las Vegas, Nevada, and Interstate 40 ends, or begins, depending upon one’s traveling itinerary, in Barstow, 30 miles north of Victorville, where it converges with Interstate 15 and continues on to Wilmington, North Carolina at Atlantic Ocean.
Mormon Rocks sit at an elevation of 3,360 feet and there is a one mile loop trail providing visitors great views of Mormon Rocks. The trail begins at the Mormon Rocks fire station located on Highway 138, west of I-15. Composed of sandstone, the formations are perforated with caves and small holes. Wildlife calling Mormon Rocks home include the owl, lizard, coast horned lizards, and pack rat. Avian life include white-throated swifts, hawks, California thrashers, western kingbirds, and ever-omnipresent in the High Desert, the raven.
Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area is a 1,310 acre park with free parking and hiking located 48 miles west of Victorville off State Highway 138. A nature center on-site provides information about the flora, fauna, and the geological features of the park. The park topography includes a deep canyon, cut by the runoff of water from the San Gabriel Mountains, a range with peaks above 8,000 feet. The Nature Center sits at 4,740 feet above sea level. Steeply-tilted canyon rocks were formed by uplift along the Punchbowl and Pinyon Faults, combined with pressure from the San Andreas Fault.
Most mammals living at the park are nocturnal, however, the gray fox has been seen at dusk and dawn. A one-third mile trail – "Pinyon Pathway" – is less strenuous than the one mile "Loop Trail." This trail has a 300 foot elevation drop into the canyon and then a 300 foot ascent back to the top. A longer trail at 3.7 miles leads to a feature called “Devil's Chair” and is 7 1/2 miles roundtrip, taking about 4 hours.
Saddleback Butte State Park is 40 miles west of Victorville, sits at an elevation of 3,651 feet, and is home to the Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park. The museum houses objects created by First Nation cultures – American Indian – of the western Great Basin, California, and the Southwest.
The property includes a self-guided nature trail, a picnic area, outdoor ceremonial arena, and on occasion guest First Nations groups perform traditional dances. An annual opening event each fall features a traditional ground blessing ceremony. On location, First Nation artists sell their work, and food and special activities for children are made available.
The granite mountaintop is an iconic movie, television, music video, print and video advertising backdrop and has often been featured as the backdrop for Super Bowl commercials. Rising thousands of feet above the broad alluvial bottom land of Antelope Valley, the park was established to protect the native Joshua Tree woodlands and other plants and animals once common throughout the High Desert.
Wildflowers display their beauty from February to May. Summer daytime high temperatures average 95 degrees and can reach 115 degrees when atmospheric high pressure settles over the Great Basin. Normal daytime temperatures are pleasant in October and November but may change suddenly. Frost and subfreezing temperatures occur regularly December and January with snowfall possible.
Hiking is accommodated by the Little Butte Trail – 2.5 miles to the peak – or the 2-mile Saddleback Butte Peak Trail, both leading to the summit where a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view stretching over the Antelope Valley, and east across the Mojave Desert awaits.
According to the California Parks and Recreation, Saddleback Butte State Park is home to once-abundant desert species that are in decline due to hunting, agriculture, and increased population. Species calling Saddleback Butte home include the coyote, kit fox, desert tortoise, jack rabbit, cottontail rabbit, ground squirrel, kangaroo rat, many kinds of snake and lizard, and the occasional badger or skunk.
Sidewinder and Mojave green rattlesnakes come out in warm weather. Avian life includes migratory species and permanent residents such as golden eagles, hawks, ravens, and owls. Smaller birds living at the Butte include rock and cactus wrens, thrashers, blackbirds, horned larks, ladder-backed woodpeckers, sparrows, finches, and loggerhead shrikes.
Movies & TV
Establishments within and outdoor locations of Victorville have been used in many films. Victorville film credits include: It Came from Outer Space (1953); Grand Theft Auto (1977), starring Ron Howard and filmed in downtown Victorville; The Hills Have Eyes (1977) by Wes Craven; The Hitcher (1986); Lethal Weapon (1987), filmed at El Mirage Dry Lake; Face/Off (1997), portions filmed at Southern California Logistics Airport; Contact (1997); Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004); The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006); and, Sky (2015), included a dinner scene filmed in Emma Jean's Holland Burger Cafe in Victorville.
Nearby Cities & Towns
Distance from Lancaster
Adelanto – 9 Miles West
Lake Los Angeles – 35 Miles West
Littlerock – 42 Miles West
City of Palmdale – 54 Miles West
City of Lancaster – 59 Miles West
Hesperia – 8 Miles South
Apple Valley – 7 Miles East
Barstow – 32 Miles North
Death Valley – 208 Miles North
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