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Strangers at the Hot Spring

Executed during the William Blake survey’s journey through the Coachella Valley in 1853, this etching presumably depicts the Agua Caliente Hot Spring in its original state

A Cahuilla community located adjacent to a Hot Spring was vividly described by land surveyors in 1853 while exploring the region in preparation for the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad:

“After traveling about seven and a half miles over these long and barren slopes, we saw a green spot in the distance, and soon came to two large springs of water rising in the bare plain, not far from the foot of the mountains.”

“One of these springs is warm, and forms a pool nearly thirty feet in diameter, and three to four feet deep. The cold spring is not quite so large, and is only ten feet distant from the other.”

“This place was evidently a favorite camping-ground for Indians. When we arrived, many Indian boys and girls were bathing in the warm spring, and a group of [women] were engaged in cooking a meal...” 

Among the Hot Spring’s powerful properties were its curative waters -- a trait that quickly became known to the outside world. Stagecoaches, followed by the Southern Pacific Railroad, began bringing tourists to the Hot Spring where they might be cured of their ailments.

Due to its rising popularity, the Hot Spring and its surrounding tribal land were leased to settlers in the late 1880s. A rustic bathhouse was constructed on the site. Palm Springs, and the tourist trade that survives today, was born.

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