USGS - science for a changing world

The Borrego Valley

Map of the Borrego Valley study area

Location of the Borrego Valley, California.

The Borrego Valley is a small valley in the northeastern part of San Diego County, about 60 miles northeast of San Diego. Native Americans inhabited the valley and utilized the springs and surface water sources from the nearby mountain ranges. Cattlemen began homesteading the Borrego Valley in about 1875. The first successful modern well was dug in 1926, which quickly led to irrigation farming. By then, the valley's population center, the small desert community of Borrego Springs, included a post office, a small general store, and a gas station. Historically, the principal source of water for the valley has been groundwater. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which encompasses 600,000 acres in and around the Borrego Valley, was established in 1933. The park was established to protect this unique desert environment. The military presence of both the Army and Navy during World War II brought the first paved roads and electricity to Borrego Springs. After the war, land developers subdivided the area, attempting to create a resort community supported by an increase in tourism generated by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Currently, about 30 percent of the land is used for agriculture and recreation, about 69 percent is natural vegetation, and 1 percent is municipal land use (California Department of Water Resources, 1998). The natural vegetation on the valley floor is a diverse variety of desert flora. One of the iconic species found within the Borrego Valley is Washingtonia filifera, the California Fan Palm, which is a lower risk/near-threatened species and the only palm native to the western United States (Hogan, 2009).

Residential and commercial development is relatively minor; the population of the village of Borrego Springs, located in the middle of the Valley, was 3,429 at the 2010 census, up from 2,535 at the 2000 census (U.S. Census Bureau,, accessed June 27, 2011). Tourism is a major industry in Borrego Springs, which has four public golf courses, a tennis center, and horseback riding, among other facilities and attractions available to visitors. The village is a popular destination for "snow birds" that migrate annually from the colder climates in winter to enjoy the sunshine of this desert community.