Palmdale is a city in northern Los Angeles County in the U.S. state of California. The city lies in the Antelope Valley region of Southern California. The San Gabriel Mountains separate Palmdale from the city of Los Angeles to the south.
On August 24, 1962, Palmdale became the first community in the Antelope Valley to incorporate. Forty-seven years later, in November 2009, voters approved making it a charter city. Palmdale’s population was 152,750 at the 2010 census, up from 116,670 at the 2000 census. Palmdale is the 34th most populous city in California. Together with its immediate northern neighbor, the city of Lancaster, the Palmdale/Lancaster urban area had an estimated population of 513,547 as of 2013.
This satellite image, looking toward the west, shows the Antelope Valley area in relation to Los Angeles with the San Gabriel Mountains separating them.
Palmenthal (the first settlement of Palmdale), 1886 to 1913
“Palmenthal”, the first European settlement within the limits of Palmdale, was established as a village on April 20, 1886, by westward Lutheran travelers from the American Midwest, mostly of German and Swiss descent. According to area folklore, the travelers had been told they would know they were close to the ocean when they saw palm trees. Never actually having seen palm trees before, they mistook the local Joshua trees for palms and so named their settlement after them. (Palmenthal is German for Palm Valley.) According to David L. Durham Joshua trees were sometimes called yucca palms at the time, which was the reason for the name. The village was officially established upon the arrival of a post office on June 17, 1888.
By the 1890s (soon after the last of the indigenous antelopes, which the valley was named after, had died), farming families continued to migrate to Palmenthal and nearby Harold to grow grain and fruit. The original settlement of Palmenthal was located about 3 miles southeast of the present Civic Center, at R8 and 27th Street Ease. It was a thriving community by all accounts, and consisted of a livery stable, blacksmith shop, show shop, church, many fine homes, a school, and a general store. Palmenthal became the official name of the town when a Post Office was established in the general store owned by John Munz, on June 17, 1888. The 1890s were a decade of boom and bust. Lured by the promise of cheap land and good living, Palmenthal’s settlers came west to grown grain and fruit. Those early years were wet ones and the land seekers were successful. But during the coming dry years, agriculture failed. However, most of these settlers were unfamiliar with farming in a desert climate, so when the drought years occurred, most abandoned their settlement. By 1899, only one family was left in the original village. Their deserted homes were carried off piece by piece for the wood and other building materials.The rest of the settlers, including the post office, moved closer to the Southern Pacific railroad tracks. This new community was renamed Palmdale and was located where the present day civic center is. A railroad station was built along the tracks there. This railroad was operated by Southern Pacific and traveled between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Wells Fargo stagecoach line that ran between San Francisco and New Orleans stopped there as well. The only remaining pieces of evidence of the original settlements of Palmenthal and Harold are the old Palmdale Pioneer cemetery located on the northeast corner of Avenue S and 20th Street East, recently acquired and restored by the city as part of a future historical park, and the old schoolhouse now relocated to McAdam Park.
Palmdale was first inhabited by Native Americans. Spanish soldier Captain Pedro Fages explored the Antelope Valley in 1772. The opening of California to overland travel through the forbearing desert was due to Captain Juan Bautista de Anza and Father Francisco Garces, a most remarkable Spanish padre. They led a colonizing expedition including 136 settlers across the Mojave Desert from Mexico to Monterey in 1773. Later in 1776 while exploring the Valley, Garces with several Indian guides from the San Gabriel Mission recorded viewing the vast expanse of what was the El Tejon Rancheria (the Badger Ranch) of the Cuabajoy Indians. After the Shoshone Indians left the valley, immigrants from Spain and Mexico established large cattle ranches there. Then, in the late 1880s, the ranches were broken up into smaller homesteads by farmers from Germany, France and the state of Nebraska.
Palmdale is located in Los Angeles County, and the urbanized centers of Palmdale and Los Angeles are separated by the San Gabriel mountain range, which is about 40 miles (64 km) wide. This range forms the southern edge of the Antelope Valley portion of the Mojave Desert. Palmdale is the second-most populous city in the Antelope Valley, and fifth overall in the Mojave Desert, after Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Nevada; and Lancaster. Palmdale is part of a twin-city complex with its northern neighbor Lancaster and together they are the principal cities within the Antelope Valley region and California’s High Desert.
According to the United States Census Bureau the city has a total area of 106.2 square miles (275 km2), of which, 106.0 square miles (275 km2) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) of it is water (including man-made Lake Palmdale, the most visible and scenic part of the municipal water supply system). The total area is 0.24% water.
The city lies in proximity to the San Andreas Fault, making it prone to severe earthquakes. This fault cuts across the Antelope Valley Freeway just north of the Avenue S off-ramp; running westward along the old Butterfield Stage Line (now Elizabeth Lake Road) into Leona Valley.
Looking south from the hills near Tierra Subida Avenue, January snow can be seen at the higher elevations.
Palmdale is located in the High Desert, where the summers are very hot and dry with occasional thunderstorms, and winters are chilly to cold, and windy, with snowfall possible. Palmdale has over 300 days of sunshine per year. The same weather pattern that brings the marine layer stratus and afternoon sea breeze to the Los Angeles Basin brings gusty winds to Palmdale, especially near the foothills on the south side. Except during Santa Ana (northeast) wind events (usually fall and winter), gusty southwest winds blow over Palmdale almost every afternoon and evening all year round. The wind is so reliable that wind turbines are used to generate electricity.
Winter: Chilly to cold, wet and windy. Winter days are somewhat mild, but winter nights can be cold. Temperatures have gone into the single-digits at times. The wind chill factor can sometimes be below zero. This is Palmdale’s rainy season and is prone to flash flooding during this time. On occasion, it will snow, sometimes with several inches of accumulation. Average day time winter highs are in the upper 50s(F) to low 60s(F), while winter nights are usually in the 30s(F) and as low as the 20s(F).
Spring: Moderate temperatures. Still occasionally wet and very windy. Transitional period from winter to summer temperatures is very short. Average daytime highs are in the upper 70s(F) to low 80s(F) while being in the 40s(F) to low 50s(F) overnight.
Summer: Very hot, dry heat with little or no precipitation. Temperatures frequently soar into the triple-digits. However, the high desert where Palmdale is located, allows for the temperatures to somewhat cool down at night, unlike the low desert cities such as Palm Springs. Average day time highs are in the upper 90s(F) although the heat index can make it feel over 100(F). Temperatures usually drop into the 60s(F) after midnight. Despite it being very hot and dry, it is common to experience summer storms in which temperatures are still hot and there is heavy rain and lightning.
Fall: Moderate temperatures with little or no precipitation. Like spring, this season feels very short. As a result, the deciduous trees leaves will have a short color change and lose their leaves rapidly. Average day time highs are in the upper 70s(F) and low 80s(F) while dropping into the mid 40s(F) to mid 50s(F) overnight.