Explore an Oasis in a Desert in Palm Springs

by | Mar 23, 2017 | California, Palm Springs Oasis, United States | 2 comments

The drought in California is over!


On a completely objective and rational basis, we are delighted that California’s drought is over…. We just wish that the timing for the rains that ended the drought had come at a different time …. at a time when we were not driving in a torrential rainstorm … in the desert.

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head? This was our theme song that we sang in time with the windshield wipers (very fast tempo):

It Never Rains in Southern California 

It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours, man, it pours

Palm Springs typically gets 350 days of sun in a year. When we arrived, the streets were rivers.

Here is how much water was flowing down the streets: I could not go shopping! 

Would you swim in a heated pool in the winter?

The rain finally ended in the evening.

This is a picture of the deserted swimming pool at our hotel. Mist is rising from the pool because the air temperature is cold, cold, cold!

In the morning, it was a whole new world!

From our room, we had a beautiful vista of palm trees and snow-capped mountains.

Our destination was an oasis in the desert. Our first stop was the Visitors’ Information Center to plan our day.

The closest oasis to Palm Springs is Indian Canyon. However, it was closed … due to flooding.

Instead, we mapped a route to Indio Hills Palms, a California State Park about a half hour drive outside Palm Springs. There are no signs that mark the entrance to the park, so you need a map!

I don’t know how Indian Canyon compares with Indio Hills, but we were very happy with our visit to the oasis at Indio Hills.

There are two oases to visit, one right next to the parking lot and one that is a mile hike across the desert. Since it was a cool and clear morning, we were happy to hike across the desert. However, in the middle of summer, this would be a hot walk, taunted by the mirage of an oasis in the distance.

This is the oasis at Indio Hills Palms

There are over 1,000 trees in the oasis

The palm grove runs along the San Andreas Fault. There are natural springs in the area. The San Andreas Fault captures the spring water.

Luckily all that rain did not disturb the sleeping giant and the plates in the San Andreas Fault did not shift while we were there.

The palm trees are big …. really big

An oasis in the middle of a large desert looks small … until you get close to the palm trees… they are huge!

The average tree is over 60′ tall and 20′ wide.

The fronds are more than 12’ long. The fronds do not drop off when they die. Instead, they remain attached to the tree and drop down to create a skirt around the trunk.


Do not plant one of these trees in your back yard unless you have a very large yard.

Do you think the palm trees are attractive?

Norman is dwarfed by the giant palm trees

The palm trees create perfect shelter from the desert sun

We were happy to see the sun!

Wikipedia claims that the sheltered environment under the tree-skirt creates a perfect spot for birds and other little creatures to live.

I did not get too close to see if this is true but Norman took a closer look.

There is not a lot of colour in a desert so I created my own

This was an ordinary photo of the sun shining through the palm leaves. I ramped up the vibrance to create a rainbow of sunshine.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. recommended that Indio Hills be a state park

Frederick Jr, was named after his famous father, ‘the Father of American landscape architecture,’ who is best known for designing Central Park in New York City. He also designed Mount Royal Park in Montreal. In 1858, Frederick Senior laid the framework for public parks as common spaces that are equally accessible to everyone. This framework was revolutionary at a time when common spaces were not designed around the concept of accessibility for all.

Indio Hills was finally designated as a public park more than 60 years after Frederick Jr, made his recommendation.

I would not have learned this little tidbit about Olmsted’s involvement in Indio Hills if it were not for the poster shown in the photo above.

What do you think about the design of the poster? I think any elementary kid would get a very mediocre grade for this homework assignment.

Here is what the poster says about Olmsted:

In 1928, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. was hired by the California State Park Commission to conduct a survey identifying lands for the State Park System. In addition to the majesty of the redwoods, Olmsted recognized the statewide significance of the palm groves at Indio Hills that grow along the San Andreas fault, where water vital to the growth of the palm groves is able to finds its way to the surface.

We enjoyed our leisurely walk through the desert to the oasis. We still had time to head over to the number one tourist attraction in Palm Springs, the Aerial Tramway.

The Aerial Tramway was shrouded in clouds

Here is what we did not see because we did not go up the tramway:

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over two-and-one-half miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During your approximately ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering picturesque and spectacular vistas of the valley floor below. Once you reach the Mountain Station—elevation 8,516 feet—enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, two documentary theaters, gift shop and over 50 miles of hiking trails.

There was a foot of new snow at the top of the tramway. We did not go to California to play in the snow! We could do that at home.

This is a closer view of a car going up the Aerial Tramway

This looks like a scene from The North Kingdom in Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming

Time for us to get back in the car and head in the opposite direction and get out of town.

The road out of town was closed due to flooding!

While we planned a new route, I got out of the car and took this picture of the Wind Farm in Palm Springs.

There are 4,000 windmills in the San Gorgonio Mountain Pass in the San Bernardino Mountains that surround Palm Springs. The windmills generate enough electricity to power Palm Springs.


The rotating windmills are oddly mesmerizing to watch.

The road leading out of Palm Springs is lined with palm trees and windmills

Palm Springs was lovely but it was not the highlight of our trip to California


The highlight was ….

Visiting my California cousin!!!

And ….

Spending time with my 90-year-old aunt!!!

In 1955, my aunt and uncle loaded all their worldly possession into their car and left Canada to find their fortune in California … and they did!

It was wonderful to reconnect with the California branch of the family!


Please return next week to wrap up our tour of California



Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at BoomerVoice.ca
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray

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