Visit the “Valley of the Mastodons” at the Western Science Center
Guest post by Brittney Stoneburg |
A giant excavation led to giant findings that are now housed in this Southern California museum.
If you’re planning on visiting Southern California and want to see a local natural history museum, you’re not lacking in options - most people are familiar with mainstays, such as the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, La Brea Tar Pits, and perhaps even the San Diego Natural History Museum - but if you’re willing to travel a little farther inland, you’ll find one of the scientific powerhouses of the region and a charming museum to boot!
External view of The Western Science Center
I work for the Western Science Center in Hemet, CA, one of the largest natural history museums in the metropolitan area known as the Inland Empire. I grew up during the huge excavation that led to the discoveries now housed in the museum. Like most children who grew up in the so-called “Valley of the Mastodons” I made frequent trips with my parents to watch the paleontologists’ progress as they dug through tons of dirt and rock to find the fossils lying beneath the surface. Little did I know that, years later, I would one day work at the museum those bones would end up in!
Opened in 2006, the Western Science Center was built to house the thousands of fossils and artifacts unearthed during the construction of the man-made Diamond Valley Lake. Now, in addition to those original Ice Age discoveries, the museum contains fossils from across the country. I spend my work day walking amongst mastodons, mammoths, and giant ground sloths, most of which were found in my own backyard. From dinosaurs to pottery, there’s something of interest for everyone in this museum. Further, with a rotating cycle of new exhibits every year, no two visits are the same.
View of Max the Mastodon from the best seat in the house
Walk through the halls of the museum and you’ll find that the Western Science Center focuses not only on the past, but on the future. We have 3D printers that produce fossil replicas at the Exploration Station in the main exhibit hall and iPads that are constantly updated with new discoveries stemming from the research of the museum’s scientists. Hands-on activities are available for both the young and the young at heart - and there’s a perfect bench for staring up at one of the largest mastodons ever found on the west coast.
So if you’re willing to go a little off the beaten path, you’ll find yourself in what I consider (in my utterly biased, in-love-with-my-job opinion) to be one of the hidden gems of Southern California. There’s no better place to discover the natural history of this beautiful region.
More details about the Western Science Center here.
About the Author
Brittney Stoneburg is the Marketing & Events Specialist for the Western Science Center. She graduated with a degree in English in 2012 and is now using her passion and previous experiences as a writer and a journalist to raise awareness about science in general, and paleontology in particular. She is especially interested in science communication, women in STEM, paleontology and evolutionary biology education, as well as Pleistocene megafauna. She tweets at @brittandbone