Ridgecrest was incorporated as a city in 1963. It was formerly known as Crumville. It is located in the Indian Wells Valley in northeastern Kern County, California adjacent to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake (NAWS, or China Lake). Ridgecrest is the only incorporated city along US 395 in Kern County. The population was 24,927 at the 2000 census and now its 30,151 in 2008. The city of Ridgecrest is a largely "company" oriented (China Lake, above) community big enough to provide plenty of fine schools, shopping and health care.
Ridgecrest is surrounded by four mountain ranges; the Sierra Nevada on the west, the Cosos on the north, the Argus Range on the east, and the El Paso Mountains on the south. It is approximately 80 miles (130 km) from the Lancaster/Palmdale area and approximately 115 miles (185 km) from both Bakersfield and San Bernardino, the three nearest major urban centers. Air travel in and out of the city is provided through the Inyokern Airport.
Ridgecrest is within 2 hours of the highest and the lowest points in the continental U.S.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20 square miles (52 km2), of which 14 sq mi (36 km2) is land and 0.3 sq mi (1 km2) of it (1.54%) is water.
Before this little town was called "Crumville". It was a farming community. It wasn't until 1910s that things changed. The settlement began as Crumville in 1912. The name honored James and Robert Crum, local dairymen. The first post office opened in 1941. By 1943, Ridgecrest had grown to 115 homes and 196 residents. Then the Navy arrived. NOTS (Naval Ordnance Test Station) was established in November 1943.
Ridgecrest incorporated in 1963. During this era the growth of Ridgecrest was governed by the continuing needs of the high tech industries coupled to the Naval Stations programs for testing arms and guidance systems.
The area, associated with the Eastern California Shear Zone (ECSZ), has experienced numerous earthquake swarms in the past (groups of several thousand quakes under magnitude 6.0 or so) often with no obvious mainshock. The 1995 Ridgecrest earthquake sequence started on August 17, when a magnitude 5.5 quake, centered 18 kilometers (11 mi) north of the town of Ridgecrest, shook the area and spawned over 2,500 aftershocks over the course of the following five weeks. Then, on September 20, 1995, the second large quake struck the area: it measured magnitude 6.0, and was at that time the largest earthquake to hit southern California since the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake.
According to the census of 2000, there were 24,927 people, 9,826 households, and 6,691 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,179.9 inhabitants per square mile (455.6 /km2). There were 11,309 housing units at an average density of 535.3 /sq mi (206.7 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 82.02% White, 3.53% Black or African American, 1.08% Native American, 3.88% Asian, 0.58% Pacific Islander, 4.93% from other races, and 3.98% from two or more races. 12.04% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 9,826 households out of which 35.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.2% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.9% were non-families. 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the city the population was spread out with 29.1% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 99.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $44,971, and the median income for a family was $52,725. Males had a median income of $46,993 versus $29,558 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,312. About 10.2% of families and 12.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.5% of those under age 18 and 5.1% of those age 65 or over.
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The most notable feature in the nearby area is the Coso People rock art in Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons. The Coso People were prolific artists and traded with distant tribes using tools crafted of stone. Archeological recovery at coastal Chumash sites in California indicates considerable trade with the Coso People.
Other traditional activities present are:
Maturango Museum is located in Ridgecrest, California, USA. The Museum is best known for the guided tours on China Lake Naval Weapons Station (NAWS). The Museum offers exhibits and displays featuring both the natural and the cultural history and diversity of the Northern Mojave Desert with exhibits of plants, animals, Native American artifacts, geology and contemporary arts and crafts.
Coso Rock Art District, sometimes equated with the Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons is a site containing over 20,000 Indian petroglyphs now located within Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, near China Lake and Ridgecrest, California. In fact, there are several other distinct canyons to the Coso Rock Art District besides the Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons. The most popular subjects are bighorn sheep, deer, and antelope.
Walker Pass (el. 5,250 ft (1.60 km)) is a mountain pass by Lake Isabella in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. It is located in northeastern Kern County, approximately 53 mi (85 km) ENE of Bakersfield and 10 mi (16 km) WNW of Ridgecrest. The pass provides a route between the San Joaquin Valley on the west and the Mojave Desert on the east.
The Weather in the Indian Wells Valley (Ridgecrest, CA) is predominantly influenced by its high desert location. The climate is characterized by hot days and cool nights with extremely arid conditions prevailing throughout the summer months. The mean annual temperature for the Ridgecrest area is 75 °F (24 °C). There are wide annual temperature fluctuations that occur from a high of 120 °F (49 °C) to a low of 10 °F (−12 °C).
January is the coolest month with an average maximum temperature of 60 °F (16 °C) and an average minimum temperature of 29 °F (−2 °C). The all-time minimum temperature of −10 °F (−23.3 °C) was recorded on December 23, 1972, and January 7, 1973. Ridgecrest is a desert, with an average of less than 5 inches (130 mm) "equivalent rainfall" per year, which includes less than 2 inches (51 mm) of snow.
July is the hottest month with an average maximum temperature of 110 °F (43 °C) and an average minimum temperature of 75 °F (24 °C). The all-time maximum temperature of 122 °F (50 °C) was recorded on July 31, 1985.
|Rec. high °F||72||86||93||100||108||114||122||117||110||105||88||75|
|Avg high °F||60||68||73||81||91||102||109||107||100||84||71||64|
|Avg low °F||29||37||41||47||55||67||75||69||60||50||39||32|
|Rec. low °F||-10||9||15||24||26||39||53||50||40||20||14||5|
|Avg precipitation in.||0.89||1.01||0.80||0.19||0.10||0.00||0.00||0.35||0.34||0.20||0.32||0.52|
Sierra Sands Unified School District includes the following elementary schools: Las Flores Elementary, Faller Elementary, Richmond Elementary, Gateway Elementary, and Pierce Elementary. For middle-schoolers, the school district includes James Monroe Middle School, and Murray Middle School. The district's primary high school, Sherman E Burroughs High School, serves Ridgecrest, China Lake NAWC, Inyokern, Buttermilk Acres, Red Mountain, and Randsburg. There is also an alternative high school, Mesquite High School.
Ridgecrest Charter School is a public charter school unaffiliated with the district. Private schools include Saint Ann Elementary and Middle School, serving students K-8; Immanuel Christian School, covering pre-K to high school; and Adventist Christian School, which serves grades 1–8. There is also an independent study public charter school, Opportunities For Learning, for students in grades 7–12.
Cerro Coso Community College was established in 1973 and has a full-time enrollment of 2,347. The 420 acres (1.7 km2) Indian Wells Valley Campus (IWV) is located in the upper Mojave Desert near Ridgecrest. The IWV Campus is the largest of the Cerro Coso campuses. It serves a population of about 50,000. The College serves the communities of Ridgecrest, China Lake, Inyokern, and Trona.
Ridgecrest Branch Library, a branch of the Kern County Library, serves Ridgecrest, Inyokern, China Lake, Trona and surrounding communities.
Ridgecrest has its own police department, as well as a regional station of the Kern County Sheriff's Department, with the Kern County Fire Department providing fire protection and Emergency Medical Services. Full-time Law Enforcement Employees in 2008: 56 (41 officers).
Ridgecrest is served by two newspapers, The Daily Independent and the News Review, as well as a mixture of local broadcast stations and repeaters from radio and TV stations based in Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. The repeaters are operated by the IWV TV Booster.