Indian Wells is a city in Riverside County, California, in the Coachella Valley. Incorporated in 1967, it lies in between Palm Desert and the resort town of La Quinta and has a population of just over 5,000 people. It has long been recognized as a world-class vacation and conference destination. It boasts an exceptional year-round climate, in addition to hosting a variety of renowned special events including the BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells Golf Resort, Indian Wells Art Festival and Desert Town Hall Lecture Series. What's more, the city's four premier luxury resorts offer a dazzling array of amenities that draw visitors from around the world. (The Indian Wells Masters tennis tournament—presently known as the BNP Paribas Open – is the fifth-largest tennis tournament in the world. It is held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which contains the second-largest tennis-specific stadium in the world.)
Steeped in a rich and colorful history, Indian Wells has long been a source of prosperity for its inhabitants. In 1823, a Mexican explorer, Captain Jose Romero, gave Indian Wells its name upon discovering a thriving Cahuilla (Kawee-yah) Indian village formed around a hand-built well. The women of this tribe dug 30 feet by hand to find the water that enabled the growth of the community. For nearly 40 years, Indian Wells was the Coachella Valley’s only established watering point in the region. In 1853 a Smithsonian Institution geologist, W.P. Blade, reported on this Indian community.
A decade later, when gold was discovered on the Colorado River, William D. Bradshaw built a trail from Los Angeles through the desert to the gold mines and Indian Wells became an important stop along the trail. The first settlers, including Caleb Cook, arrived around 1910 and were credited with pioneering the valley’s date industry.
Over the next decades, settlers gradually arrived in the area and date palm ranches became profitable. The area's first golf courses were opened in the 1950s at the Eldorado Country Club and the Indian Wells Country Club. In 1960, Arnold Palmer won the first Bob Hope Desert Classic golf tournament. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a regular Indian Wells visitor and later an Eldorado homeowner.
In an election held in June 1967, to avoid being annexed by neighboring cities such as Palm Desert, the inhabitants voted to incorporate as a city and Indian Wells became California's 400th city. Today it is California's premier desert resort city, an exceptional place to live, work and play. The city offers an outstanding quality of life, numerous cultural and social activities, inspiring philanthropy, a cohesive and innovative city government and world-class resorts. As stated on their visitor’s guide:
“We invite you to experience the richness of Indian Wells. Our California desert sanctuary is nestled in a pristine cove of the Coachella Valley where the landscape is distinguished by palm tree-lined greenbelts and the majestic Eisenhower Mountain. Immerse yourself in the richness of our natural surroundings with 350 days of glorious sunshine and spectacular 360º mountain views. Escape to a tranquil hideaway and the accommodating richness of our luxury resorts with a rejuvenating spa treatment or a refreshing dip in a shimmering pool. Indulge in the culinary richness of our restaurants, offering a dazzling array of fine wine, epicurean delights, and tantalizing treats. Enjoy the cultural richness of our world-class events as you watch tennis masters at the BNP Paribas Open or hear internationally acclaimed speakers at Desert Town Hall. Whether you are here for a brief retreat or ultimately return for a lifetime, we are genuinely pleased that you have chosen to stay with us. Indian Wells is richness you deserve.”
Riverside County Drug Pipeline
The dark side of this desert lifestyle: Riverside County has become the single largest drug trafficking distribution center in the United States, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA officials say the smuggled narcotics flow from Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel through Riverside County stash houses en route to seller’s markets in LA, Canada and the East Coast: an invisible network, valued in the billions of dollars, that weaves through the county, hidden within the same shipping and trucking lanes that carry agriculture and commercial goods from Mexico.
The rise in meth and heroin trafficking follows the age-old law of supply and demand. Though a lot of the drugs being seized are en route to destinations other than Riverside, the populations lying along the pipeline are well supplied, to the tune of a devastating level of abuse and addiction, further fueled by festivals and events where drugs are the single constant.
Fortunately, rehabilitation centers shine a beacon of hope for those who are seeking a way out of the hell of addiction. As substance abuse rises, modalities are developed to increase effectiveness in rehabilitation. There is a way to a brighter future, where the desert sun and lush locations can be fully appreciated.