Slab City

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Slab City

Slab City or The Slabs (located at 33°15′32″N 115°27′59″W / 33.25889°N 115.46639°W / 33.25889; -115.46639) is a snowbird campsite in the Colorado Desert in southeastern California, used by recreational vehicle owners and squatters from across North America. It takes its name from the concrete slabs that remain from the abandoned World War II Marine barracks of Camp Dunlap.

Several thousand campers, many of them retired, use the site during the winter months. These "snowbirds" stay only for the winter, before migrating north in the spring to cooler climates. The temperatures during the summer are unforgiving (as high as 120 °F) (48 °C); nonetheless, there is a group of around 150 permanent residents who live in the Slabs all year round. Some of these "Slabbers" derive their living by way of government checks (SSI and Social Security and Social Security Disability) and have been driven to the Slabs through poverty. Others have moved to The Slabs to learn how to live off the grid and to be left alone. Still others have moved there to stretch their retirement income.

The site is both decommissioned and uncontrolled, and there is no charge for parking. The camp has no electricity, no running water, no sewers nor toilets, and no trash pickup service. Many campers use generators or solar panels to generate electricity. Supplies can be purchased in nearby Niland, California, located about four miles (6 km) to the southwest of Slab City. Geologically the Earth's crust at Slab City is about 1.5 miles thick.[1]"

History[edit]

Photo of the Slab City Christian Center taken in October 2007.

1942: Construction of Camp Dunlap[edit]

Camp Dunlap, in which The Slabs now sits, was expected to prepare the United States Marine Corps for combat duty.

1949: Military operations reduced[edit]

Military operations at Camp Dunlap had been greatly reduced and a skeleton crew continued until the base was dismantled.

1956: Camp Dunlap dismantled[edit]

All buildings were ordered to be dismantled and the slabs remained.

1961: Land conveyed to the State of California[edit]

As of October 6, 1961, a quitclaim deed conveying the land to the State of California was issued by the Department of Defense as it was determined the land was no longer required. The deed did not contain any restrictions, a recapture clause, or any restoration provisions. All of the former Camp Dunlap buildings had been removed. The remaining slabs were not proposed for removal. Later legislation required that revenue generated from this property go to the State Teachers’ Retirement System.

Creosote harvesting[edit]

At some point, a chemical company in Oakland, California hired 20 men to harvest creosote leaves near Niland. Some of the workers moved closer to their work by living in small trailers at the abandoned Camp Dunlap. This was the start of what is now called Slab City.

1965 migration to Slab City Begins[edit]

Riverside County ordered people to leave a camping area at Painted Canyon near Mecca, California. These people had all sorts of living arrangements. Besides the trailers, there were cardboard and plywood shacks, all sorts of vehicles and school buses. Some migrated to what is now Bombay Beach, Georgetown which is south of the Fountain of Youth and the abandoned Marine Training Base Camp Dunlap, now known as Slab City.

Attractions[edit]

Salvation Mountain[edit]

Salvation Mountain

Located just east of State Route 111, the entrance to Slab City is easily recognized by the colorful Salvation Mountain, a small hill approximately three stories high which is entirely covered in acrylic paint, concrete and adobe and festooned with Bible verses. It is an ongoing project of over two decades by Leonard Knight.

East Jesus[edit]

East Jesus is an experimental, habitable, extensible artwork in progress since 2006 begun by the late Charles Stephen Russell in Slab City, California. The inhabitants of East Jesus and offsite members provide a refuge for artists, musicians, survivalists, writers, scientists, and laymen. They are dedicated to providing a working model of an improbable improvised community. Completely self-contained and run entirely on solar power, East Jesus attempts to use and recycle every bit of consumable trash. They are unique in the Slabs in that they have Human Manure composting to reduce and improve the impact on the local desert environment.

The Range[edit]

The Range is an open-air nightclub complete with stage, lights, amplifiers, speakers and tattered couches and old chairs for seating. Every Saturday night at about dusk, the locals and visitors meet for a Talent Show that features permanent resident musicians and anyone else who wants to get up on stage and perform. The venue is run by an old time resident of 14 years named Builder Bill.

In popular culture[edit]

  • It was featured in the radio documentary program Hearing Voices episode "Small Town" the week of November 11, 2009. The segment's synopsis is "This town in California never did exist, though it’s full of folk who live there: an unofficial RV Park and home to the homeless thrives in culture and community.[2]"
  • It was one of the settings featured in the 2007 Sean Penn film Into The Wild based on the so-named Jon Krakauer recounting of Christopher McCandless' odyssey that ultimately led to his death in Alaska in August 1992. In the book and movie, McCandless spends time with itinerant residents of Slab City and strikes up a relationship with a teenage girl.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Slab City - town with no laws". VICE. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  2. ^ "HV076- Small Town : HearVox". hearingvoices.com. Retrieved 2010-11-19. 

External links[edit]