It started with a man, a mule and a mission. In 1913, homesteader Cabot Yerxa was drawn by the natural beauty of this idyllic desert spot, located at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, high above the Coachella Valley floor.
In 1914, he constructed the first permanent building in the area - Eagle's Nest Cabin.
Money was tight, but when he saved $10, he bought a black burro he named Merry Xmas. To get a drink of water, Cabot and the mule walked seven miles of desert to the railroad station at Garnet. Then they walked seven miles back home.
Nothing in a desert is ever as valuable as water. To find it, Yerxa drilled three water wells. The third proved three times is indeed a charm.
His discovery of a vast aquifer 100 feet below the earth's surface, filled with rich mineral water naturally heated to 180 degrees, paved the way for today's explorers to continue the trek to Desert Hot Springs. These days, visitors stake claims for the tranquility found at a cadre of boutique spas, and the natural state of mind in its village atmosphere.
By the time vandals destroyed Eagle's Nest Cabin, it looked like a town would develop. Cabot decided to stay. He started constructing a sprawling homage to the Hopi Indians that is one of the oldest adobe structures in Riverside County. It houses Cabot's Pueblo Museum, which became a state historical site after his death in 1947.
The town was founded by L. W. Coffee on July 12, 1941. The original site was centered on the intersection of Palm Drive and Pierson Blvd. and was only a square mile in area. He named it Desert Hot Springs in honor of the waters Yerxa had discovered.
Desert Hot Springs became a tourist destination in the 1950s through its small spa hotels. The city's seclusion appealed to move-in urban "escapees." Realtors arrived to speculate real estate appraisal of thousands of vacant lots, but the streets are laid out over a six square mile area. Over time, homes were bought by sun-seeking retirees and the area incorporated into a city in 1963, with 1,000 residents. Desert Hot Springs experienced periods of dizzying 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. A new high school opened in 1999, two new public parks and several country clubs either opened or proposed, and a hotel resort near the 40-year old Mission Lakes golf club is under construction.