A pictorial walk through history

Thousand Palms Oasis

 

 

Timeline of Thousand Palms Oasis

1000 BCE – present Successive Indian cultures live in the vicinity of the Thousand Palms Oasis, primarily the Cahuilla people who continue to be a vibrant presence in the valley.
   
1862 The Bradshaw Stage Line runs regularly from the Colorado River gold fields to San Bernardino and Los Angeles. Paul tells stories of it stopping at the Oasis, but there is no evidence that it did. 
   
1876 The Southern Pacific Railroad is completed through the Coachella Valley, with a stop at Edom near present-day town of Thousand Palms
   
1877 Desert Land Act passed which opened up the desert for homesteading.
   
1902 Albert Thornburg homesteads 80 acres of the Thousand Palms Oasis
   
1905 Louis Wilhelm trades two mules and a wagon for the 80 acres of Thousand Palms Oasis
   
1913 The Louis Wilhelm family, which includes twelve children, camps in the Oasis and continues to do so through the coming decades
   
1930s Campers are using the area
   
Early 1930s Paul Wilhelm arrives to live in the Oasis through an arrangement where he rents the land from his father
   
Mid 1930’s Paul Wilhelm begins to offer shacks and tent sites for rent to overnight visitors
   
1942-1945 Paul Wilhelm inherits the 80-acre Thousand Palms Oasis; Simone buys 640 acres, including the area of the present-day Simone Pond.
   
1949 Paul Wilhelm plants 15,000-palm nursery. No electricity or telephone has yet been brought to the vicinity.
   
1950s Crayfish are introduced to Simone pond by boy scouts.
   
1951? A 24-foot-wide gravel road is built from Hidden Springs to Dillon Highway (present-day Dillon Rd). Paul lobbied to have the county route the road to the east of Squaw Hill, thereby diverting  traffic away from the Oasis itself.
   
1957 Electricity arrives at the Oasis; Paul Wilhelm acquires an electric stove and well pump, as well as a swamp cooler.
   
1957 Willis Palms Oasis burns in 50 mile-per-hour winds.
   
1965 – 1966 Hadley family camps in the Oasis.
   
1958 Paul Wilhelm deeds the land to Ed Lewis, a developer. Paul holds a deed of trust.
   
1960’s Paul builds a dam below his house to make a lake. This lake, and four others built in the mid 1970’s by Dart Industries in preparation for development of the property, were destroyed in the flood of 1977.
   
1961 Paul Wilhelm supplies water for trucks involved in paving Thousand Palms Canyon Rd from Dillon to Simone Pond.
   
1968 Fire starts in the palms between Thousand Palms Oasis and present-day McCallum Oasis by a worker burning dried reeds. One cabin burns.
   
1968 Many ponds now exist between Thousand Palms Oasis and Simone, named: El Dorado, Willow, Tamarisk, Simone, Spirit, Dune
   
1969 Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, starring Robert Redford and Katherine Ross, is filmed in part around the oasis. 
   
1972 Justin Dart buys land in Thousand Palms Canyon, Indio Hills and the dunes south of the Canyon, including the Thousand Palms Oasis, altogether 19,000 acres.
   
1977 Wilber Mayhew, a UC Riverside biology professor, forms the Coachella Valley Fringe-toed lizard Advisory Committee. The committee is mostly state wildlife biologists and resource managers.  The Committee wanted the FTL placed on state and federal endangered species lists. This year saw the first consideration of how new environmental regulations could affect use of the Thousand Palms Oasis, effectively limiting its use to open space. The Dart Corporation controls 23,000 acres.
   
1977 A flash flood scours the area, damaging or destroying many buildings and washing out many mature palms and most of the constructed ponds. Dart builds levees and dams to mitigate future damage.
   
1980 The California Department of Fish and Wildlife declares the Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard to be State Endangered. The US Fish and Wildlife Service declares the Lizard to be Federally Threatened, and designates Critical Habitat. Thousand Palms Canyon is identified as sand source for the Coachella Valley Preserve System.
   
1981? Paul Wilhelm is bitten by a sidewinder rattlesnake. Justin Dart sells 19,000 acres to Cathton Industries, controlled by Dr Charles Allard, for $13 million. Sale of an additional 4,000 acres (now USFWS Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge) is pending for agricultural uses.
   
1981 Paul Wilhelm and nephew Ric Wilhelm are let go from their positions as property caretakers for Dart Corporation. Paul contemplates selling his remaining 1/8 acre, but continues to live in his cabin. They both eventually work for the Nature Conservancy as caretakers. 
   
1983 Dr Charles Allard offers 19,000 acres for sale. The California Nature Conservancy buys only the Thousand Palms Oasis for $2 million using a grant by Mellon Foundation for wetland preservation. Al Muth (manager of UCR Deep Canyon Preserve) and Attorney Paul Selzer pull together a group of stakeholders and start meeting, calling themselves The Lizard Club.
   
1985 The McCallum Desert Foundation donates $300,000 to The Nature Conservancy for the purchase of what we now call McCallum Grove.
   
1985 The Nature Conservancy begins management of the Thousand Palms Oasis and the greater Coachella Valley Preserve System
   
1987 A desert pupfish refugium is established at Simone Pond for pupfish from Salt Creek in the present-day Dos Palmas Preserve. 
   
1989 A desert pupfish refugium is established also at the Thousand Palms Oasis visitor center pond for pupfish from Salt Creek
   
1994 Paul Wilhelm passes.
   
1997 The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) takes over management of the Thousand Palms Oasis and McCallum Oasis.
   
2013 The Nature Conservancy transfers ownership of the Preserve to the Center for Natural Lands Management. Thousand Palms Oasis and McCallum Oasis Preserves (880 acres) are managed by CNLM to conserve native species, their habitat and functioning ecosystems in perpetuity.