La Quinta’s Rich History
The ancient Salton Sea, Indian Canyons, the Cahuilla Indians, the ranches, the Bradshaw Trail, the La Quinta Hotel, celebrities, the Desert Club, PGA West…are all part of La Quinta’s rich history.
La Quinta is nearly surrounded by the Santa Rosa Mountains and is located on the floor of the Coachella Valley. Many years ago, when the floor of the valley began to sink, it was covered by the Pacific Ocean. Over a period of hundreds of years, the Colorado River flowed into the Gulf of California and formed a large delta fan. Silt basin deposits grew higher and wider until the basin was cut-off from the ocean, while the mountains on both sides grew higher. When the Colorado River changed its course around five hundred years ago, the east Coachella Valley flooded creating the freshwater Lake Cahuilla. Today you can still see the lake’s water line along the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains.
The Cahuilla Indians were the first ancestors of the La Quinta area. They called the area the “Land of the Eternal Sun”. The Cahuilla Indians still exist today. However, the area we now know today as La Quinta was named in the mid 1700’s by Novo-Spanish explorer Juan Bautista De Anza. He set up a travel stop in the vicinity, the fifth (quinta) stop in a long route that extended from Mexico to Los Angeles. La Quinta remained largely unpopulated for more than a century after that until its annexation by the U.S. in 1848.
The first scheduled trains began operating between Los Angeles and Indio in 1876, as the Indio area had a plentiful water supply. Farmers were able to get their vegetables, melon, citrus and date crops to metropolitan areas. La Quinta’s climate was ideal for growing exotic dates, sweet corn, Bermuda onions and Thompson seedless grapes.
The following decades saw La Quinta and its surroundings irrigated and transformed into agricultural lands. It wasn’t until the early 20th century, however, that the community would start to grow into what it is today.
In 1926, San Francisco businessman Walter Morgan built the La Quinta Hotel (renamed La Quinta Resort & Club in 1993), and things haven’t been the same since. As travel to the desert became easier, Los Angeles residents began making trips to the area. One of the original getaways for Hollywood celebrities, the La Quinta Resort & Club was also well-known as the site of the Coachella Valley’s first golf course. Fashionable and exclusive, the Resort brought a significant amount of attention to the region that has grown steadily through the years. Since its inception, the La Quinta Resort & Club has remained a favorite celebrity hideaway.
There may not have been a city without the La Quinta Resort & Club and even today it is still one of the city’s pivotal points of interest. When La Quinta incorporated in 1982, it was named for the La Quinta Resort which had been established over a half century earlier.
La Quinta’s population first expanded in the late 1970’s, but the real boom began in the 1990’s when people began looking elsewhere in California for affordable housing. Since then La Quinta has developed into a full-fledged community that would eventually become known as “The Gem of the Desert”. To this day, the City of La Quinta is booming with a growing population, as well as a large seasonal population of “snow birds” migrating in from all around the world each and every year.