By Gail Gold
Whenever in a new area and you want to learn the history and the wonders of the desert, a ranger-led guided walk is a way to go. For thousands of years, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has called home to Palm Springs. The canyons which were complex communities are part of the Murray, Andreas, Palm Tahquitz, Chino, and Snow Creek canyons. My hike began with a steep descent stepping down rocks and reaching the sandy desert floor.
Years ago plants, animals, and the Agua Caliente Indians thrived because there were copious amounts of water. The water was from underground, not rain. That water from flash flooding smoothed the rocks with the sediment it carried to polish the enormous boulders. Crops of melons, squash, beans, and corn were grown. Palm seeds, berries, and honey mesquite were gathered for food, medicine, and basket weaving, rounding out their life. Brittlebush was used for numbing, desert lavender used to coagulate blood, cottonwood tree bark was used to cure headaches.
Today, rock art, house pits, foundations, irrigation ditches, dams, trails, reservoirs, and food preparation areas still do exist in the canyons. All you have to do is know where to look to see remains of their early society and that is exactly where the ranger comes in! The Indian Canyons and Tahquitz Canyon are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Palm Canyon, where I was, is the world’s largest California Fan Palm Oasis in the world. The vista of so many very tall, full Fan Palms was breathtaking, a Fan Palms forest.
For thousands of years, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has thrived here. They are sacred canyons and historically important to information gatherers, nature seekers, and archaeologists. The trails are well marked, a few easy ones, most are more difficult, steep hiking, but well worth the prize: a 60-foot high waterfall cascading down into a pool. Of course, there are 4 desert dangers: tarantulas, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and spiders, so you must be alert when hiking. If you’re very lucky, you might see the majestic bighorn sheep, mule deer, or coyotes.
Books on history and lore are in the trading post to expand your understanding of this breathtaking area. Next time in Palm Springs, try to go on a ranger hike to learn about these proud people.