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History [ edit ] The area was originally known as "Borrego Sink", a natural depression adjacent to the Salton Sea that flooded periodically. The sink was named for its first settler, José Maria Borrego, who received a land grant from Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado in 1842. The town of Thermal (named after the hot springs found there) developed in 1906 when William T. Coleman and his partners began construction on two large thermal power plants near the site of present-day downtown Palm Springs. They also constructed an interurban railway to transport tourists between there and Palm Springs, which opened on July 4, 1907,:1:16–17 making it one of California's oldest continuously operating railroads;:12 it is now used primarily by freight trains operated by Union Pacific Railroad.