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Desert Hot Springs, California

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Desert Hot Springs is a city in Riverside County, California, United States. The city is located within the Coachella Valley geographic region. The population was 25,938 at the 2010 census, up from 16,582 at the 2000 census. The city has experienced rapid growth since the 1970s, when there were 2,700 residents.

It is named for its many natural hot springs. It is one of several places in the world with naturally occurring hot and cold mineral springs. More than 20 natural mineral spring lodgings can be found in town. Unlike hot springs with a high sulfur content, the mineral springs in town are odorless.

Palm Desert is a city in Riverside County, California, United States, in the Coachella Valley, approximately 14 miles (23 km) east of Palm Springs, 121 miles (195 km) northeast of San Diego and 122 miles (196 km) east of Los Angeles. The population was 48,445 at the 2010 census. The city has been one of the state’s fastest growing since 1980, when its population was 11,801.

A major center of growth in the Coachella Valley, Palm Desert is a popular retreat for “snowbirds” from colder climates (the Eastern and Northern United States, and Canada), who swell its population by an estimated 31,000 each winter. Palm Desert has seen more residents become “full-timers”, mainly from the coasts and urban centers of California, who have come for both affordable and high-valued homes.


The only people residing in areas north of Palm Springs prior to the 20th century were the Cahuilla Indians in the village of Seven Palms. Although Cahuilla people never settled permanently in today’s Desert Hot Springs, they often camped here during winter times due to the warm climate.

According to early homesteader and writer Cabot Yerxa in his newspaper columns published in The Desert Sentinel newspaper, the first homesteader in the area of the city of Desert Hot Springs was Hilda Maude Gray, who staked her claim in 1908. Cabot Yerxa arrived in 1913 and soon discovered the hot water aquifer on Miracle Hill. Due to the Mission Creek Branch of the San Andreas Fault bisecting the area, one side is a cold water aquifer, the other has a hot water aquifer. His large Pueblo Revival Style architecture structure, hand built over 20 years, is now one of the oldest adobe-style buildings in Riverside County and houses Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, designated a state historical site after his death in 1965. Cabot’s Trading Post & Gallery opened there in February 2008.

The town was founded by L. W. Coffee on July 12, 1941. The original town site was centered at the intersection of Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard and was only one square mile. Coffee chose the name Desert Hot Springs because of the area’s natural hot springs.

Desert Hot Springs became a tourist destination in the 1950s because of its small spa hotels and boutique hotels. The city is popular with “snowbirds.” Realtors arrived to speculate, and thousands of lots were laid out over a six square mile area. Some homes were bought by retirees and the area incorporated as a city in 1963, with 1,000 residents.

Desert Hot Springs experienced periods of significant growth in the 1980s and 1990s, when most of the vacant lots were filled with new houses and duplex apartments. The city’s population doubled in the 1980s and increased by 5,000 in the 2000 census.

Desert Hot Springs High School opened in 1999.

Desert Hot Springs was the first city in Southern California to legalize medical marijuana cultivation, and has since been overwhelmed by marijuana developers and growers. It was later featured in a CNBC special as California’s first city to permit the commercial cultivation of marijuana in 2014.

Public safety

The city of Desert Hot Springs contracts for fire and paramedic services with the Riverside County Fire Department through a cooperative agreement with CAL FIRE.

In two separate municipal ballot measures, Desert Hot Springs residents approved a utility users tax and a public safety tax by majorities of over 75 percent. Both measures provide added funding to the police department and other public safety services.


The city is home to windmill farms in the west and also by the San Gorgonio Pass. Growing use of solar power accompanied with many windmills make Desert Hot Springs a leading city in renewable energy.

The main economy is based on spas, which are mostly owner-operated. The mild climate and hot springs make it a popular tourist destination.

Municipal bankruptcy

In 2001 the town filed for a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. The bankruptcy was resolved in 2004 by selling municipal bonds when it faced a legal judgment of almost $6 million.

Hot mineral water spas

Desert Hot Springs is home to a number of hot mineral water spas. During the 1950s and 1960s the town had over 80 spa hotels. From the late 1990s to the present a number of these boutique hotels have been renovated and revived. With their mid-century modern architecture they appeal to those wanting a unique hotel / spa experience.

Some of the better known spa hotels in Desert Hot Springs include:

  • The Miracle Springs Resort & Spa, which has been the filming location for multiple movie productions, including Mulholland Falls, Senior Moment, and Hot Springs Hotel.
  • The Two Bunch Palms Resort, which was used as a 1992 filming location for the movie The Player.
  • The Desert Hot Springs Hotel and Spa, which was featured on California’s Gold In 2001 by Huell Howser Productions, in association with KCET/Los Angeles.

Modernist architecture

At one time, there were 43 small spas (6 to 10 guest rooms) in the city. Some were located atop the hot water aquifer on Miracle Hill, where Cabot Yerxa, one of the early settlers, lived. His home is now Cabot’s Pueblo Museum. Across the street is Miracle Manor Retreat, built in 1949, one of the first spas built in town. It was built by the Martin Family who eventually sold it in 1981 to a local legend, Lois Blackhill. Upon her death in 1996, her family sold it in 1997 to two longtime regulars and close friends of Lois’, trans-media designer April Greiman and architect-educator Michael Rotondi, who restored it to its original state. In 2018, Angela Rutherford, founder and designer of the award-winning wine bar, The Royce, located in Detroit, Michigan, purchased Miracle Manor. The Desert Hot Springs Motel, designed by architect John Lautner is located just outside the city limits. The motel was purchased and restored in 2000 by Steven Lowe.

In 2006 the architectural firm of Marmol Radziner + Associates designed a sustainable, modernist prefab home featured in the November 2006 issue of Dwell magazine. The home served as a prototype for the firm’s efforts to develop a series of prefab homes.


The Desert Star Weekly newspaper is published in the city.


Museums: Cabot’s Pueblo Museum named for Cabot Yerxa.


Desert Hot Springs lies just south of large nature preserves such as Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. Surrounding areas are home to a number of species adapted for the desert climate and temperature extremes. Species include pronghorns, desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, kit fox, desert iguana, horned lizard, chuckwalla, roadrunners, mountain lions, raptors and Gila monsters.

Although black bears are not common here, a bear was sighted on Palm Drive and Dillon Road in October 2010.

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Desert Hot Springs, California Schools


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