The Agua Caliente
Hot Mineral Spring Story
The site of our Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring is where it all began. It is a place rooted in tradition, healing and tranquility, and is the inspiration of the name of our Tribe and the City of Palm Springs. Now, it takes on new meaning at The Spa at Séc-he.
Séc-he is one of the most important cultural resources cared for and protected by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, Séc-he (“the sound of boiling water”) is an ancient hot mineral spring that is remarkable in both form and function.
Here, rainwater and mountain snowmelt naturally collect underground and emerge from the ground for the first time after 12,000 years at a rate of 26 gallons per minute. This incredible natural resource is a tangible link between the land and the Agua Caliente people of this special place.
Geologic surveys have revealed the unique nature of this ancient hot mineral spring, which is not connected to any other water source in the Coachella Valley. It exists in a chamber 8,000 feet below the surface, where the earth heats it to temperatures nearing 180 degrees. Unlike other natural sources of geothermal energy, which typically make their way to the surface through fissures created by seismic activity, Séc-he travels up a unique, natural pipeline, absorbing minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sodium on its 1.5-mile journey and cooling to about 105 degrees as it reaches the desert floor.
Long before settlers arrived in the Coachella Valley, the ancestors of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians were stewards of this majestic landscape and its healing hot mineral water. Séc-he provided water for drinking, irrigation, bathing and ceremonies, and its underground passage served as a link between the physical and spiritual world. As a result, the hot mineral spring was revered for its life-giving properties.
Soaking in these waters has proven benefits when it comes to both physical and emotional wellness. The minerals have been shown to increase circulation, soothe skin conditions, reduce inflammation and release tight muscles. Soaking in the individual hot baths may increase feelings of relaxation and well-being.
Photos courtesy of the Palm Springs Historical Society
When guests arrived in the area in the 1800s, the Agua Caliente people shared access to this sacred hot mineral spring. The site hosted a succession of bathhouses throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries and became the epicenter of development, the force around which the urban village and resort destination of Palm Springs was built. As early as the late 1880s, Séc-he and its bathhouse became the first tourist attraction in what would eventually become Palm Springs, today a major international natural destination for wellness. Two more bathhouses were built on the site between 1910 and the 1930s, replacing each one that had come before.
By the 1950s, the Agua Caliente Tribe entered into a 99-year land lease agreement with a developer to build a world-class spa at the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring. For the next 60 years, visitors from around the world experienced the wonder of the mineral baths.
In the early 21st century, it became clear that the 1950s infrastructure built to protect the spring would need to be replaced. In 2015, Agua Caliente Tribal Council decided to embark on a major retrofit of the steel collection ring over the top of the hot mineral spring to preserve the integrity of the naturally occurring hot spring. Above-ground structures were removed and underground supports and the steel collection ring were carefully replaced. In May 2018, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians broke ground on the modern-day development of the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, which includes the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, The Spa at Séc-he, the Oasis Trail and Gathering Plaza. The new Cultural Plaza celebrates the hot mineral spring and the Tribe’s history, culture, traditions and modern-day life, ushering in a new era of luxury, tranquility and healing.
Designed to both embrace and reflect the natural desert landscape, Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza and The Spa at Séc-he honor the history and heritage of the Tribe while introducing a new generation to the sacred hot mineral spring’s restorative properties. The state-of-the-art day spa offers an unparalleled experience, maintaining its close connection to the land while providing a variety of pampering, relaxation and wellness services.
For centuries, Séc-he has been the center of Tribal life for the Agua Caliente people, imbued with cultural and spiritual significance. Today, with The Spa at Séc-he, the Tribe continues the tradition of sharing these sacred waters and the healing power they provide.