When the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed their main line between Los Angeles and Yuma in 1877, Old Beach was the name given to a stop at the far eastern edge of the Salton Sink. By the turn of the century, the soil in the vast sink was found to be fertile, and as a result an irrigation project was undertaken to divert water from the Colorado River to the newly-named "Imperial Valley". Water to the valley was turned on on May 14, 1901 and a handful of settlements were established. Before long, plans were made for a rail connection from Old Beach to the town of Imperial at the heart of the valley. Work was started on the new railroad by the Imperial & Gulf Railroad on October 16, 1902. By April 10, 1903, the rail to Imperial was completed. On June 29, 1904 the connection was made to Calexico and the Mexican border, where it continued as SP's Inter-California Railway. With the construction of this new line, Old Beach became known as Imperial Junction (though the post office didn't reflect the change until 1910).

In 1913, Imperial Junction was briefly renamed Hobgood after Richard H. Hobgood, an area pioneer. The following year, it was again renamed by the Imperial Farm Lands Association in an attempt to appeal to investors, this time to Niland. The name was intended to compare it to the fertile 'Nile-Land' along the Nile River in Egypt; even streets in the townsite were named to reflect this theme, including Luxor and Memphis (two ancient Egyptian cities).

In the more than 100 years since its establishment, I haven't been able to find anything else of note about Niland. A Marine Corps. Training Base, Camp Robert H. Dunlap, existed east of town from 1942-1956. It was dismantled and ownership reverted to the State in 1961. The site of Camp Dunlap is now the location of Slab City, an off-the-grid mecca named for the remaining concrete foundations of the Camp. In Niland, around 1000 residents remain but ruined and boarded up commercial buildings are a clear sign that the town has seen better days.

See Also
CalipatriaCardex Western Co. Dry Ice Plant