The Borrego Springs Desert Lodge
  (established 1937)
aka: La Casa del Zorro Resort;
Borrego Ranch Resort & Spa

Desert Lodge, Borrego Springs, CA

Desert Lodge, Borrego Springs, CA

For a detailed history of the Desert Lodge/La Casa del Zorro click here. (pdf version)

Historical Background:

The permanently protected state park surrounding the Borrego Valley has seen little change since it was first discovered by the Spaniards in the 1700's when Juan Bautista de Anza found one of the first land routes from Mexico to California. In 1776, Anza led a group of soldiers, colonists, horses, cattle and mules on an epic 1,600-mile march from Culiacan, Mexico, through the Borrego Valley, eventually founding the Pueblo of San Francisco.

"Borego" first appeared on a county map in 1883 as a misspelling of the Spanish word "borrego" which means "a yearling lamb." More likely, "Borrego Springs" was so named because of the sheepherders who watered their flocks at the local spring in the late 1800's.

In 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza, the son and grandson of Spanish frontier captains, dis­covered one of the first land routes to Cali­fornia through the Borrego Valley.  Returning in 1776, Anza led a group of soldiers, colonists, horses, cattle and mules, on an epic march of American history 1,600 miles from Culiacan, Mexi­co, up through Borrego Valley, eventually founding the Pueblo of San Francisco. Along the way was the first birth in California of a child not of American Indian descent. The event took place in what is now the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and is commemorated with the First Child Monument.

During World War II, Borrego bustled with military activity as Gen. George Patton’s tanks raced across its deserts while Navy planes practiced their dive-bombing runs using targets set up in washes. The military presence brought the community its first paved road and electrical lines.  At the war’s conclusion, developers subdivided the area in hopes of developing a resort community.  Today the permanent population of Borrego Springs is about 3,000.


1772: Pedro Fages, of the Presidio in San Diego, was probably the first non-Indian to traverse the region, when he visited in pursuit of deserters.

1774: Juan Bautista de Anza, the son and grandson of Spanish frontier captains, discovers one of the first land routes to California through the Borrego Valley.

1776: Anza leads 240 soldiers and colonists, including 115 children, and about 1,000 horses, cattle and mules, on an epic march of American history 1,600 miles from Culiacan, Mexico, up through Borrego Valley, eventually founding the Pueblo of San Francisco.

1782: The native palm tree is first noted in a written diary by Fages.

1831: The Jackson party of American trappers, including J.T. Warner of Warner Ranch fame, enters California via the Borrego region.

1846: Kit Carson and an escort of 15 men pass through the area guiding Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny on to what would become the battle of San Pascual.

1848: Gold is discovered in California and there is heavy migration from Baja, California and Sonora, Mexico via the Borrego region.

1850: Judge Benjamin Hayes passes through area as he enters California to be­come state's first jurist.

1858: Butterfield Overland Mail passes through Borrego on first overland mail delivery between St. Louis and San Francisco. The 2,812 mile trip takes 23 days, 23 hours, and 30 minutes.

1869: Gold is discovered and the mining towns of Julian and Banner are born to the west of Borrego Valley.

1900: First homesteading in Borrego Valley starts.

1907: The Salton Sea forms.

1920: Borrego has active Chamber of Commerce and the common acceptance of the spelling “Borrego” takes over from “Borego.”

1928: La Jollan Guy L. Fleming and Clinton Abbott of San Diego submit first plans for Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  “Beggars of Life,” a silent movie starring Wallace Beery and Louise Brooks is filmed.

1936: Noel Crickmer, manager of the Del Mar Hotel, first visits Borrego Valley.

1937: One of the first structures in Borrego Valley, a simple adobe house is built at Burks Ranch. Named The Desert Lodge, it serves Thanksgiving turkey dinner to 17 guests. The population of Borrego Springs zooms to 25 people. In the heart of the Mission Revival period, the first structure in the Borrego Valley was built by Dana Burks, an early developer of Palm Springs. The simple adobe house was originally named the Desert Lodge.

1940: Four additional adobe units are built, styled after the main building.

1942: Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Borrego comes alive with Army and Marine units.

1958: “The Young Lions,” starring Marlon Brando, Dean Martin and Montgomery Clift, is filmed.

1960: The Copley Press (owner of The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Borrego Sun, Today's Local News and Enlace), purchased the Desert Lodge and officially changed the name to La Casa del Zorro Desert Resort. "El Zorro," or "the fox" in Spanish, was the nickname of James Copley's mistress who made her home in this desert retreat. La Casa del Zorro quickly became a coveted desert oasis and a romantic escape. For a detailed history of the Casa del Zorro click here. (pdf version)

1961: Modernization of the older hotel units begins, and the new 18-sided pool is built.

1964: The Fox Den lounge is expanded to its present spacious size.

1970: Additional remodeling is done to the lounge, offices and kitchen.

1985: The convention facilities and audio-visual services for meetings hosting from 2 to 250 are completed.

1987: The deluxe suites offering both a family pool/spa and general use pool/spa are completed.

1990: Six hard-surface, illuminated tennis courts and full-service pro shop are completed.

1991: “Bugsy,” starring Warren Beatty, is filmed.

1997: The state-of-the-art Zorro Conference Center is completed.

1999: An aquatics center is built at La Casa del Zorro.

2000: Renovation is completed on the casitas, enhancing settings that already placed La Casa del Zorro among the world’s fine boutique resorts by creating homes that are virtual "resorts within a resort," indistinguishable from fine, upscale residences.

2000: TV legendary "X-Files" began its eighth season with two segments set in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

2002: Renovation is completed on La Casa del Zorro’s Deluxe Rooms, which a Los Angeles Times travel writer had already called “attractive as any hotel room I’ve ever stayed in.”

2003: Four-wheel-drive, eco-tourism outings are introduced by La Casa del Zorro. These tours of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are designed by the resort and sanctioned by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  Astronomy programs introduced at La Casa del Zorro, led by noted astronomy author and sky photographer, Dennis Mammana. Because artificial light is at a minimum in the Anza-Borrego Desert, Mammana considers it to be one of the best sites in the world for astronomy.

2004:  Custom in-restaurant wine room is opened. It was designed and hand built to enhance an already heralded dining experience and houses an increasingly impressive wine collection.  An elegant, new veranda opens off the dining room and overlooks the rose garden. It features an innovative climate control misting system, fireplace for winter nights and beautiful plants.

2005: Eco-tourism outings are expanded at La Casa del Zorro to include guided, custom-tailored hikes of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  The new Anza-Borrego Archery Academy opened at La Casa del Zorro, where National Archery Association certified instructors provide lessons in this sport of the original Olympics.

2006: Croquet center opens at La Casa del Zorro. With roots in Ireland of the 1830s, this distant cousin of golf was adopted by England’s aristocracy in the 1850s and likely will become a desert favorite.  Jogging track opens at La Casa del Zorro featuring desert and mountain vistas, including the Vallecito, San Ysidro and the Santa Rosa ranges. The later, at nearly 9,000 feet, is the tallest range.

2007: GH Capital, LLC purchased La Casa del Zorro and in the summer of 2008 the resort was completely remodeled and reborn as Borrego Ranch Resort & Spa—an ultra-luxurious hideaway.

2009: Borrego Ranch Resort Closed and put on the market for sale.

2013: La Casa del Zorro is re-born !!  First public event held at the hotel since closure - Borrego Springs Chamber & Visitors Bureau Annual Meeting, March 23, 2013.  Approx 200 in attendance.

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