Palm Springs, California- A History

Palm Springs, California- A History

Palm Springs, California- A History.  What is behind this desert oasis?  Well I’ll give you a brief sampling of what I’ve learned about this place we call Paradise.

Located south of San Berardino, east of Los Angeles, and north of San Diego, Palm Springs is surrounded by mountains that create the desert climate.  It was established as a city in 1938 but goes back a lot farther than that into the 1800’s.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is a tribe composed of several smaller bands who lived in the modern day Palm Springs area when the Agua Caliente Reservation was established by the United States Government in 1896. Today, this band of Indians owns half the land in the city and leases it back to people who build upon it making for more interesting real estate transactions in that one must determine home values based on not owning the land.  For that reason, there are more condos built on leased land than on fee land.  Makes sense in many ways.

The name Palm Springs derives from a hot sprigs located near “two bunches of palms”.  Some areas still have hot mineral springs and have resorts and homes built tight over them.  Its pretty nice when your spa at home is fed by a hot spring coming from under your land.

In the early 19th century, Spanish explorers named the area “Agua Caliente” (hot water). One possible origin of palm in the place name is revealed in the November 1992 issue of Art of California. At least one Spanish explorer referred to the area as la Palma de la Mano de dios or “The Palm of God’s Hand”. The current name for the area is “Palm Springs” which likely came into common usage in the mid-1860s.

Over the years, it has been an oasis in one way or another.  Used by early settlers because of its natural springs and shade provided by the native palm trees.  A palm will grow naturally in the desert if enough water exists at ground level.  And although this is a desert, Palm Springs sits on one huge aquifer that supplies much of the water for the area.  The aquifer is recharged from mountain snowpack and winter rains as well as water from the Colorado River via the California Aqueduct. And although we have a lot of water, we are still using it faster than we are replacing it.

FOr more, see our series entitled 100 Years Of Palm Springs History