Desert Hot Springs, California

Coordinates: 33°57′40″N 116°30′06″W / 33.96111°N 116.50167°W / 33.96111; -116.50167
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Desert Hot Springs, California
Location of Desert Hot Springs in Riverside County, California.
Location of Desert Hot Springs in Riverside County, California.
Desert Hot Springs is located in California
Desert Hot Springs
Desert Hot Springs
Location in the United States
Desert Hot Springs is located in southern California
Desert Hot Springs
Desert Hot Springs
Desert Hot Springs (southern California)
Desert Hot Springs is located in the United States
Desert Hot Springs
Desert Hot Springs
Desert Hot Springs (the United States)
Coordinates: 33°57′40″N 116°30′06″W / 33.96111°N 116.50167°W / 33.96111; -116.50167
Country United States
State California
County Riverside
IncorporatedSeptember 25, 1963[1]
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • MayorScott Matas[2]
 • Mayor Pro TemRoger Nuñez
 • City CouncilRussell Betts
Gary Gardner
Jan Pye
 • Total30.66 sq mi (79.41 km2)
 • Land30.27 sq mi (78.40 km2)
 • Water0.39 sq mi (1.01 km2)  0.11%
Elevation1,076 ft (328 m)
 • Total32,512
 • Density1,074.03/sq mi (414.68/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP codes[5]
Area codes442/760
FIPS code06-18996
GNIS feature IDs1656484, 2410328

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 32,512 as of the 2020 census, up from 25,938 at the 2010 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.[6][7] It is one of several places in the world with naturally occurring hot and cold mineral springs.[8]: 7  More than 20 natural mineral spring lodgings can be found in town.[9] Unlike hot springs with high sulfur content, the mineral springs in town are odorless.[10][9]


The only people residing in areas north of Palm Springs before the 20th century were the Cahuilla Indians in the village of Seven Palms.[8]: 27  Although Cahuilla people never settled permanently in today's Desert Hot Springs,[8]: 11  they often camped here during winter times due to the warm climate.[8]: 7 

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.[11][12] 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.

1950s postcard promoting tourism

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."[8]: 8  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 was 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.[13] It was later featured in a CNBC special as California's first city to permit the commercial cultivation of marijuana in 2014.[14]


Landscape in western Desert Hot Springs.

Before the development of the city began in the 1930s, Desert Hot Springs was a treeless place in California's Colorado Desert.[8]: 11 

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 30.66 square miles (79.4 km2), of which 98.73% is land, and 1.27% is water. Desert Hot Springs is nestled between two mountain ranges: San Bernardino Mountains and San Jacinto Mountains.[8]: 8  It is located just south of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. It is located in the Colorado Desert region of the Sonoran Desert.[15]


Desert Hot Springs has a desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh) similar to the rest of the Coachella Valley, with less than six inches of precipitation per year. Summers are very hot with days frequently exceeding 107 °F (42 °C) in July and August while night-time lows tend to stay between 78–90 °F (26–32 °C). The winters are mild with days typically seeing temperatures between 68–78 °F (20–26 °C) and corresponding night-time lows between 50–60 °F (10–16 °C). Heat waves during the summer months involving temperatures higher than 110 °F (43 °C) are not unusual.

Summer winds and the higher elevation keep Desert Hot Springs on average 5-7 degrees cooler than other communities in Coachella Valley.[8] However, the winter season can be warmer due to the surrounding mountains blocking north winds. Since it lies at a higher elevation than the cities further south, cold air drains into the lower elevation of the Coachella Valley, which results in warmer night-time lows, producing an example of thermal inversion.[6]

Climate data for Palm Springs Int'l Airport elev. 425 ft. 9 mi south of Desert Hot Springs CA
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 95
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 70.8
Daily mean °F (°C) 58.1
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 45.4
Record low °F (°C) 19
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.16
Average precipitation days 3.8 3.5 2.4 0.7 0.4 0.2 0.7 1.1 1.0 0.8 1.0 2.6 18.2
Source: NOAA[16]


The Mission Creek Fault,[17] a branch of the San Andreas, separates two aquifers. On one side, the Desert Hot Springs Sub-Basin contains an aquifer with hot water. This aquifer supports the area's spas and resorts. Mission Springs Sub-basin,[18] on the other side of the fault, the Miracle Creek sub-basin has cold water. This aquifer provides fresh water to the city and has received awards for exceptional taste.[19][20][8]: 16 


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[21]


From having 20 residents in 1941, Desert Hot Springs had 28,000 residents in 2014.[8]: 25 

The 2010 United States Census[note 1] reported that Desert Hot Springs had a population of 25,938. The population density was 1,097.1 inhabitants per square mile (423.6/km2). The racial makeup of Desert Hot Springs was 15,053 (58.0%) White (34.4% Non-Hispanic White),[22] 2,133 (8.2%) African American, 357 (1.4%) Native American, 675 (2.6%) Asian, 84 (0.3%) Pacific Islander, 6,343 (24.5%) from other races, and 1,293 (5.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13,646 persons (52.6%).

The Census reported that 25,820 people (99.5% of the population) lived in households, 118 (0.5%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 8,650 households, out of which 3,713 (42.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 3,468 (40.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,603 (18.5%) had a female householder with no husband present, 711 (8.2%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 843 (9.7%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 206 (2.4%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,071 households (23.9%) were made up of individuals, and 691 (8.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.98. There were 5,782 families (66.8% of all households); the average family size was 3.59.

The ages of the resident population range from 8,064 people (31.1%) under the age of 18, 2,712 people (10.5%) aged 18 to 24, 6,893 people (26.6%) aged 25 to 44, 5,781 people (22.3%) aged 45 to 64, to 2,488 people (9.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 100.3 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 98.4 males.

There were 10,902 housing units at an average density of 461.1 per square mile (178.0/km2), of which 4,166 (48.2%) were owner-occupied, and 4,484 (51.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 8.6%; the rental vacancy rate was 16.6%. 11,533 people (44.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units, and 14,287 people (55.1%) lived in rental housing units.

According to the 2010 United States Census, Desert Hot Springs had a median household income of $32,883, with 28.6% of the population living below the federal poverty line.[22]


As of the census[23] of 2000, there were 16,582 people, 5,859 households, and 3,755 families residing in the city. The population density was 713.2 inhabitants per square mile (275.4/km2). There were 7,034 housing units at an average density of 302.5 per square mile (116.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 68.2% white, 6.1% black or African American, 1.4% Native American, 2.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 16.4% from other races, and 5.8% multiracial. 40.4% of the population was Hispanic or Latino.

There were 5,859 households, out of which 38.7% had children under 18 living with them, 39.3% were married couples living together, 17.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.9% were non-families. 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.8, and the average family size was 3.5.

In Desert Hot Springs, the age of the population was spread out, with 33.3% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.8 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 91.6 males. Desert Hot Springs has a reputation as an active adult community where many retirees choose to live.

The median income for a household in the city was $25,987, and the median income for a family was $29,126. Males had a median income of $27,873 versus $21,935 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,954. About 22.4% of families and 27.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.1% of those under age 18 and 15.0% of those age 65 or over, one of the highest for cities over 10,000 in southern California.[24]


Desert Hot Springs has a diverse population. Several racial or ethnic groups live there, with the largest group being of Mexican and Central American ancestry. There is a Korean American ethnic section of the city at 8th Street and Cholla Drive. Thousands of American Jews made the city their home. According to the Desert Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the city's population is over 10 percent African-American or Black. The city has a high proportion of Native Americans, most of whom are members of the Cahuilla tribe in proximity to the Agua Caliente Cahuilla tribal board in Palm Springs. A large percentage of the city population is LGBTQ.[25]


In the California State Legislature, Desert Hot Springs is in the 28th Senate District, represented by Democrat Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, and in the 56th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Lisa Calderon.[26]

In the United States House of Representatives, Desert Hot Springs is in California's 25th congressional district, represented by Democrat Raul Ruiz.[27] The 25th District covers most of the desert communities of Indio, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, and Cathedral City.

Desert Hot Springs is in the Riverside County Supervisor 4th District.[28]

City government[edit]

Desert Hot Springs is served by a five-member City Council: Mayor Scott Matas and Council Members Jan Pye, Russell Betts, Roger Nunez and Gary Gardner. Council members and the Mayor serve four-year terms. It operates as city manager form or government.[29]

Desert Hot Springs's outlying areas include non-county areas of Desert Hot Springs and nearby communities of Desert Edge, Sky Valley and North Palm Springs.

Public safety[edit]

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.[30]

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.


Over 20 natural mineral spring lodgings can be found in town.[9]

The city is home to windmill farms in the west and also by the San Gorgonio Pass. The growing use of solar power accompanied by many windmills make Desert Hot Springs a leading city in renewable energy.[8]: 23 

The main economy is based on spas, which are mostly owner-operated. The mild climate and hot springs make it a popular tourist destination.[8]: 8 

Municipal bankruptcy[edit]

In 2001 the town filed for a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.[31] The bankruptcy was resolved in 2004[32] by selling municipal bonds when it faced a legal judgment[note 2][33] of almost $6 million.[34]

Hot mineral water spas[edit]

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.[35] 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:

Modernist architecture[edit]

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 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 Blackhill's, trans-media designer April Greiman and architect-educator Michael Rotondi, who restored it to its original state. 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.[44][45]

In 2006 the architectural firm of Marmol Radziner + Associates designed a sustainable, modernist prefab home featured in the November 2006 issue of Dwell magazine.[46] 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.


Cabot's Pueblo Museum.

Notable people[edit]

Although never a resident, Marilyn Monroe occasionally visited the spas in Desert Hot Springs. She spent a week in the town shortly before her death.[8]: 8 [failed verification]


Desert Hot Springs lies just south of large nature preserves such as Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park.[15] 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.[48]

See also[edit]


Informational notes

  1. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA – Desert Hot Springs city". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  2. ^ The city issued $12.78 million in 40-year bonds to pay a $10.85 million debt. Of that amount, $8.85 million was paid to Silver Sage Partners, Ltd., which had successfully sued the city for discrimination under the Federal Fair Housing Act, and $2 million was paid to other creditors. The remainder was put into the general fund or used for other purposes.


  1. ^ "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Word) on November 3, 2014. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  2. ^ "City Council". City of Desert Hot Springs. Archived from the original on October 29, 2018. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  3. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  4. ^ "Desert Hot Springs". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  5. ^ "ZIP Code(tm) Lookup". United States Postal Service. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Howells, John (2015). Where to Retire: America’s Best & Most Affordable Places. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 70. ISBN 978-1493016457.
  7. ^ Editors of Time Out (2011). Time Out Los Angeles. Time Out Guides. p. 293. ISBN 978-1846703010.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Desert Hot Springs Historical Society (2014). Desert Hot Springs. Arcadia Publishing (Images of America). ISBN 978-1467132176.
  9. ^ a b c Vokac, David and Joan (2017). Desert Hot Springs, California: Spa Town, U.S.A. Westphalia Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0930743352.
  10. ^ Vechten, Ken Van (2010). Insider’s Guide to Palm Springs. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 78. ISBN 978-0762761579.
  11. ^ Gray, Dean M. "Hilda M Gray: Desert Hot Springs Homestead Pioneer". Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ "The History of Desert Hot Springs". Desert Hot Springs Historical Society. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013.
  13. ^ Esquivel, Paloma (May 10, 2016). "This California desert town is experiencing a marijuana boom". Retrieved July 14, 2017 – via LA Times.
  14. ^ "Desert Hot Springs to be featured in CNBC marijuana special". The Desert Sun. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  15. ^ a b "Natural Vegetation of Desert Hot Springs, California". Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  16. ^ "NOAA's 1981–2010 Climate Normals (1981–2010)". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  17. ^ "Mission Springs Water District: hot water maps" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  18. ^ "Mission Springs Water District: sub-basins map" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  19. ^ "Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting – Award Winners". Archived from the original on October 28, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  20. ^ "City of Desert Hot Springs – Award-Winning Water". Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  21. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  22. ^ a b "Desert Hot Springs (city), California". Archived from the original on March 22, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  23. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  24. ^ "Desert Hot Springs, California (CA 92240, 92282) profile: population, maps, real estate, averages, homes, statistics, relocation, travel, jobs, hospitals, schools, crime, moving, houses, news, sex offenders". Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  25. ^ "Home". Mission Creek Band of Mission Indians. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  26. ^ "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  27. ^ "California's 36th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC.
  28. ^ "County of Riverside: City of Desert Hot Springs". Archived from the original on January 18, 2019. Retrieved January 28, 2024.
  29. ^ Nyczepir, Dave (May 7, 2014). "Desert Hot Springs picks Martín Magaña as city manager". The Desert Sun.
  30. ^ "Service Area". Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  31. ^ "Brown Signs Bill to Limit California's Municipal Bankruptcies", Business Week, October 10, 2011 Archived October 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Accessed October 18, 2011
  32. ^ Caldwell, Dave. "Havens | Desert Hot Springs, Calif.; Near Palm Springs, A Little City Thinks Big", New York Times", March 31, 2006
  33. ^ Maeda, Toshi (October 27, 2004), "With Chapter 9 status over today, Desert Hot Springs pins hope on growth", The Desert Sun: A–1 – via Ron's Log (DHS Bankruptcy)
  34. ^ Marois, Michael B. and William Selway. "California City Moves Closer to Bankruptcy Filing (Update3)", Bloomberg, February 27, 2008
  35. ^ Lozano, Alicia Victoria (May 10, 2021). "'If you build it, they will come': California desert cashes in on early cannabis investment". NBC News. Archived from the original on May 10, 2021. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
  36. ^ "Miracle Springs Resort & Spa – Hot Mineral Water Resort". Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  37. ^ Tamahori, Lee (April 26, 1996), Mulholland Falls (Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller), Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Connelly, Chazz Palminteri, Largo Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Polygram Filmed Entertainment, retrieved October 7, 2017
  38. ^ Serafini, Giorgio, Senior Moment (Comedy, Drama, Romance), Christopher Lloyd, Katrina Bowden, Jean Smart, Esai Morales, Goff Productions, retrieved October 7, 2020
  39. ^ Hot Springs Hotel (Comedy), Samantha Phillips, Robert Vitelli, Glori Gold, Marc Revivo, Taurus Entertainment Company, retrieved October 7, 2020{{citation}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  40. ^ The Player at the TCM Movie Database
  41. ^ "Sustainable Resort in Palm Springs—Mineral Hot Springs". Two Bunch Palms. Archived from the original on October 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  42. ^ "Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel – Hot Mineral Pools and Spa Services". Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  43. ^ Howser, Huell (September 25, 2002). "Desert Hot Springs Hotel – Palm Springs (0016)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archives. OCLC 47724820.
  44. ^ "John Lautner Foundation: Desert Hot Springs Motel". April 13, 2003. Archived from the original on April 13, 2003. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  45. ^ "Hipsters, Hollywood types, and architecture buffs are checking into the only hotel designed by John Lautner – in Desert Hot Springs". Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  46. ^ Anderton, Frances (November 2006). "Desert Utopia". Dwell. Archived from the original on October 29, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2021.(Originally published in November 2006, identical article reprinted with date of January 18, 2009).
  47. ^ "Coco Crisp selling Rancho Mirage mansion for $9.995M". The Desert Sun. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  48. ^ "What makes the bear sighting in Indio so rare". The Desert Sun. Retrieved February 6, 2019.

Further reading

  • Yerxa, Cabot Abram (2011), Brown, Richard E. (ed.), On the Desert Since 1913, Desert Hot Springs: Cabot's Museum Foundation, ISBN 978-0-615-45570-9, OCLC 810254220 – a partial compilation of Yerxa's commentaries and articles published in the Desert Hot Springs Desert Sentinel from 1951 to 1957
  • Coffee, L. W. (1948). Desert Hot Springs: Why?. Desert Hot Springs: Cabot's Museum Foundation. (republished 2008)
  • Effinger, Bill (2011). The Vortex Made Me Do It! : The Mystery and History of Desert Hot Springs. San Marcos, CA: New Century Publishing. p. 486. ISBN 978-0615470207.
  • Hunt, John J. (2006). The Waters of Comfort (The History of Desert Hot Springs California). Little Morongo Press. p. 275. ASIN B000W6EMS8. OCLC 52917018.
  • Minckler, Karen; Schroeder, Bethany; Eyraud, Cole (1986). The Legend of Cabot Yerxa. Desert Hot Springs: Cabot's Museum Foundation. OCLC 272397224.

External links[edit]