City of Indio

100 Civic Center Mall
Indio, California 92201

About the company

Indio began as an Indian village—a winter home for the Native American people who regularly migrated from the surrounding mountains in the winter to the to the palm oases along the San Andreas Fault zone in the Indio Hills. Their villages were located on both sides of the Coachella Valley and along the shores of ancient Lake Cahuilla, which was filled periodically by the Colorado River. The lake would remain for an unknown number of years, then would gradually dry up as the river changed its course and flowed out to the Gulf of California again. The present day Salton Sea fills a portion of that same depression. It came into being in 1905 when floodwaters of the Colorado River broke through an irrigation levee in Imperial Valley and flowed unchecked into Salton Sink until the breach was closed in 1907.

In the late 1700’s a few exploratory and military expeditions traveled through the Coachella Valley on their way from Sonora, Mexico to Los Angeles, but most took route through the mountains to the southwest of the valley. In general, the Spanish, Mexican and early American presence did not greatly affect the Native American Cahuilla society. These early immigrants did not threaten their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but the Cahuilla did develop economic and political strategies to deal with the newcomers by organizing into confederations of clans. Ultimately, Indian Reservations were created in the valley, including the Agua Caliente, Agustine, Cabazon and the Torres Martinez.

In 1872, the site of present-day Indio was selected as a division point for he Southern Pacific Railroad. The presence of an Indian labor force for the construction of the railroad was also a plus. A roundhouse, sidings, crew housing and a depot were constructed, and in 1876 the first trains arrived from Los Angeles. In 1877 the route was completed to Yuma, the last link in the southern transcontinental route. Indio was on the first schedules as “Indian Wells,” but to avoid confusion with other Indian Wells locations, the name was changed to Indio. Indio’s first settlers were mainly railroad employees and the shopkeepers who came to serve them.

A formal Indio town site was surveyed and a map was filed in 1888 with the San Diego County Recorder. In 1893, as part of the newly designated Riverside County, Indio became one of its twelve townships. In 1896 it had 50 inhabitants. Not only was it a main stop on the Southern Pacific Railroad, but also it was a provisioning point for miners heading into the mountains to the east. Gold mining in the area, which is now Joshua Tree National Park, was booming. The railroad’s need for water for their steam engines led them to drill deeper and better wells, and when a rich aquifer under the valley was discovered, people came to put in wells and farm the valley floor. A long and warm growing season made the production of early vegetables and other crops profitable. The United States Department of Agriculture established a Date and Citrus Experiment Station in Indio after closing the original station founded in 1904 in Mecca. The Indio USDA Station brought scientists from all over the world to Indio to study the information collected here. These same scientists brought date palm trees to Indio from Algeria in 1903.

By 1909, the Indio school census indicated that the school district had 43 families and 82 children within its boundaries. In 1914, the Southern Sierras Power Company completed an electric power line to the Coachella Valley. Besides the convenience electric power provided, the power was needed to pump water since many of the early wells which flowed under artesian pressure had ceased to do so and water levels in wells was dropping as demand for water increased.

Flooding from canyons, which surround the valley, became a problem as development spread out. The Coachella Valley Stormwater District was formed in 1915 and had begun construction of a four-mile levee to carry water around Indio when a huge flood came in 1917, which flowed through Indio and many of the other valley cities as well as developed farmlands. The Coachella Valley County Water District was formed by a formal vote of local residents in January 2, 1918. Its purposes were to survey the water resources of the valley, accomplish flood control measures, and search for alternative sources of water. The latter led to a long fight to secure rights to water from the Colorado River and ultimately to the building of the Coachella Branch of the All-American Canal. Today’s development would not have been possible without these far-sighted measures.

Indio is the Coachella Valley’s first incorporated city, taking this important step in
In the 1930’s, the largest construction project in the world during those depression days, was the building of the Metropolitan Aqueduct to carry Colorado River water to the Los Angeles Basin. Indio was the center for distribution of supplies to mining crews building 92 miles of tunnel through the eastern mountains and the city was not only the supply depot, but also the recreation center for the thousands of miners involved in the work.

In 1901 The Riverside Press newspaper reported Coupled with the Riverside County Fair, it attracts thousands of visitors yearly, as do other festivals it has begun hosting in recent years.