Beneath the desert floor is one of the largest aquifers in the world. The region leads the nation for table grapes and date fruit production. Perhaps you don’t know that Palms Springs has a 2500-year-old history and is also home to one of nature’s more eye-catching and potentially catastrophically dangerous geological faults – the San Andreas earthquake fault. There are at least 500 small-scale earthquakes daily in the area. Contrary what you might see in a Hollywood movie, being in that fault canyon might be one of the safest places you could be during a major quake. There are no buildings anywhere around to fall onto you. An up-close view of the San Andreas fault with all of its jagged cliffs, carved winding canyons and upwardly shifting rock and sand is located just a two hour drive east of Los Angeles, the second most populated city in the United States. Most ‘Angelenos’ have certainly heard of the San Andreas fault but have never seen it up close.
Seeing part of the San Andreas fault is certainly worth the drive. Along one part of the fault area you can stand with one foot along the North American tectonic plate and the other on the Pacific plate. One of the more exciting ways to see the area is taking a tour with Desert Adventures guide Daryl ‘Blackfeather’ Eisman. In an open-air red jeep, your adventure is almost like an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie. From the start of the trek, you will discover that Daryl is your personal walking encyclopedia of the Sonoran Desert region. As you ride through the winding and extremely narrow canyons of the San Andreas fault you learn about both the indigenous palms trees that thrive from underground streams and the indigenous people – the Cahuilla (Kah-WEE’-ah) Indians. Their descendants are the present-day Agua Caliente nation, the actual landowners of downtown Palm Springs. There is evidence of a once-massive lake that covered Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. If you kick up the dirt around the San Andreas fault, you will still find seashells and ocean shale rock. Remnants of that lake and a levee break around 1900 created what’s now known as the Salton Sea.
Desert Adventures Eco Tours and Events, +1 (880) 440-5337 or +1 (760) 340-2345
The Palm Springs desert is home to a variety of indigenous animals, birds, reptiles and flowers. Inside the ‘Living Desert Park,’ you will experience desert creatures not only from the local area but also from various regions of the world. The park’s live-in residents are, at times, very friendly. Giraffes sometimes walk up to the visitor fence and pose for your pictures. In addition to the desert lands of the park there are beautiful lush shaded gardens for you rest and enjoy a tranquil afternoon. Inside the park’s offices you can marvel at fine artworks and also view rooms and halls that are perfect for wedding ceremonies and private parties.
The Living Desert 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, California, +1 (760) 346-5694
Rising high above Palm Springs is the San Jacinto Mountain State Park. At 8,000 feet atop the jagged mountain, there is a pretty fantastic restaurant and undisturbed natural landscaping of granite rock, towering trees, water streams, birds and cliff-dwelling wildlife such as owls, eagles and sheep. Getting to the park from the Palm Springs side of the mountain means taking the Aerial Tramway. This is a fast and smooth ride inside a rotating passenger cabin. The word spectacular is often over-used, but for this ride the verbiage is appropriate. During your ascension, you experience the stark change of terrain and rapid temperature change. During the summer there is sometimes a 30-degree temperature difference between the peak and the desert down below, so be sure to dress appropriately.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, California, +1 (888) 515-TRAM or +1 (760) 325-1391
Fly over Palm Springs and you will discover that this quaint community has more than a thousand swimming pools, making it a true oasis of the desert. One of the more unique and family-friendly places you can cool off at this summer is the ‘Splashtopia’ pool and water park at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort. The water park features two 100-foot water slides, a lengthy lazy river and plenty of splash fountains for kids, as well as The Splash Grill for delicious burgers, kids’ meals and cool tropical drinks. There are also private lounging cabanas with water spray-misters, all making this a favorite resort for vacationing families. When you’ve cooled down at Splashtopia, the Omni Rancho Las Palmas also offers guests a free round of golf by day, and outdoor family-themed movies on the greens at night.