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:: Shoshone, Serrano, Early Cahuilla, Later Cahuilla

1862 The Bradshaw Stage Line runs regularly from the Colorado River gold fields to San Bernardino and Los Angeles
1876 The Southern Pacific Railroad is completed through the Coachella Valley, with a stop at Edom near present-day town of Thousand Palms
1900 Homesteading of desert land begins
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
1921 “The Sheik” with Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres is filmed in Oasis
1927 “King of Kings”, partially filmed in the Oasis, is produced by Cecil B DeMille
1930s Campers are using the area
Mid-1930s Paul Wilhelm arrives to live in the Oasis through an arrangement where he rents the land from his father
1942-1945 Paul Wilhelm inherits the 80-acre Thousand Palms Oasis; Simone buys 640 acres, including the area of the present-day Simone Pond.
1945 Paul Wilhelm begins to offer cabins and tent sites for rent for overnight visitors, conducts walks and talks of the Oasis.
1940s – 1980s Paul builds a series of dams along the stream, creating reservoirs that were used for swimming, boating and fishing.
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 through traffic 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.
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, was 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. Dart builds levees and dams to mitigate future damage.
1978 US Fish and Wildlife (USFW) proposed “threatened” status for the FTL. Proposed a
  170 square mile preserve.
1980 The California Department of Fish and Game declares the Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Endangered.
  The US Fish and Wildlife Service declares the Lizard Threatened, providing protection for its habitat.
  Thousand Palms Canyon is identified as sand source for the Coachella Valley Preserve System.
1981? Paul Wilhelm is recovering from a sidewinder rattlesnake poisoning. 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 ¼ acre, but continues to live in his cabin.
1983 Dr Charles Allard offers 19,000 acres for sale. The California Nature Conservancy buys only the Thousand Palms Oasis for $2 million lent by Mellon.
  Al Muth (manager of UCR Deep Canyon Preserve) and Attorney Paul Selzer put together a group of stakeholders and started meeting, calling themselves The Lizard Club.
1985 The McCallum Desert Foundation donates $300,000 to The Nature Conservancy for the Preserve.
1985 The Nature Conservancy begins management of the Thousand Palms Oasis and the greater Coachella Valley Preserve System
Mid-1980s A wealthy Smoke Tree Ranch resident donates $50,000 anonymously to The Nature Conservancy for the Preserve.
1987 A refugium is established at Simone Pond for pupfish from Salt Creek in the present-day
  Dos Palmas Preserve
1989 A refugium is established also at the Thousand Palms Oasis visitor center pond for pupfish from Salt Creek
1990 A refugium is established at Dos Palmas via Simone pond.
1997 The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) begins acquisition of interest in the Thousand Palms Oasis and McCallum Oasis.
1994 Paul Wilhelm passes.
2013 Center for Natural Lands Management completes acquisition of interest in the Thousand Palms Oasis and McCallum Oasis areas
2015 Thousand Palms Oasis and McCallum Oasis Preserves (880 acres) are managed by CNLM to conserve native species, their habitat and functioning ecosystems in perpetuity