john mccallum palm springs

Explore Palm Springs: First Sign of Water

John McCallum was the first to bring water to the desert by constructing a stone-lined ditch that brought water from Tahquitz Canyon to his ranch.

Renee Brown Current Digital, History

john mccallum palm springs
John McCallum used this waterway to form the Palm Valley Land and Water Company.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY

In the early days of Palm Springs every precaution was taken by visitors and residents alike to make sure that water was available at all times. In the desert the subject of water can mean the difference between a community flourishing or just disappearing.

The first to bring water to the brand-new settlement of Palm Valley was John McCallum. He spent $60,000 to construct a stone-lined ditch that brought water from Tahquitz Canyon to his ranch. It was the first irrigation project in the West.

He formed the Palm Valley Land and Water Company with O.C. Miller, H.C. Campbell, and Dr. James Adams in the late 1890s. The accessibility of water made it possible for him to develop and sell much of the property he had purchased from the Southern Pacific Railroad. A flood in 1893, followed by an 11-year drought decimated the Palm Valley Land and Water Company and destroyed McCallum’s developments.

• READ NEXT: The McCallum’s – Palm Springs’ Founding Family.

There is a multitude of ways to learn more about Palm Springs, which turned 82 in 2020. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring the city’s history.

The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place corresponds with today. The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.

For more information, visit pshistoricalsociety.org.

• READ NEXT: Discover More Interesting Facts About Palm Springs History.