It's the Water
It was the water accumulating in natural seeps scattered over a barren desert landscape that attracted Native Americans to camp in the area during the winter months when they left their canyon and mountain homes for the warmth of the desert.
Three main sources over five miles apart provided the water needs for these early people. Willow Hole to the east and Seven Palms and Two Bunch Palms to the west provided water from seeps in the sand. Willow Hole was used by wildlife and Native Americans for countless years.
At the start of the 20th Century, there were less than 100 non-Indian settlers in the Coachella Valley, and almost no one had made a home in the northwest quarter where Desert Hot Springs is now located. The only people likely to be living in the desert north of Palm Springs would have been a small Cahuilla population at Seven Palms and Dutch Frank, a wandering prospector who always rode a burro. He never claimed a homestead and lived outdoors in mesquite pockets near water. However, in 1912 a prospecting partner of his, Old Man Coolidge, had filed for a 160-acre homestead near Two Bunch Palms.
The West was still an exotic and unknown land of mountains, deserts, and canyons. The desert—where water was scarce, cactus and scrubby plants dominated, and rain came seldom—had not attracted pioneers willing to brave the elements and unknown dangers to settle and carve out a new life.
The Homestead Act of 1862 enabled adventurous, hardy souls to claim land where it was still available. The desert was free for the taking as homesteaders began to trickle in beginning around 1903.
In 1900, no one had staked a claim on the northwest side of the Coachella Valley. It was 1908 when Jack Riley became the first European to establish a homestead on what would eventually become Desert Hot Springs. Ethyl Rouse and Hilda Gray homesteaded soon after, and Cabot Yerxa arrived in 1913. It was Cabot who is credited with the discovery of the natural hot water the city is known for.
By the 1930s, L.W. Coffee, attracted to the natural hot water, began laying out streets for a town he named Desert Hot Springs. He realized the hot mineral water was a unique asset and to feature it, he built an elaborate bathhouse which opened in 1941 with an attendance of over 2,000 when the population of the area was still under 100.
Incorporation took place in 1963. By then the town had its own post office, an elementary school, movie theater and malt shop as well as its own newspaper, The Desert Sentinel. Two Bunch Palms oasis was privately owned and the B-Bar-H Dude Ranch was busy attracting the Hollywood crowd as well as the wealthy and famous. Small owner operated spas attracted tourists, Angel View Children's Hospital was established and Cabot Yerxa continued to work on his exotic Pueblo Museum. Development progressed throughout the next four decades resulting in a city of over 27,000 people with a geographical area larger than any other city in the Coachella Valley.
Today, it is still the water that attracts residents and visitors to Desert Hot Springs. Very few other places in the world can boast of naturally occurring hot and cold mineral water of the purest and most beneficial quality.