Posted by: sunnyharvy | January 23, 2016

Strange Places

The Last Free Place on Earth” may very well be Slab City. Located 156 miles northeast of San Diego (as close to the middle of nowhere you can get in Southern California), the area is 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.


The temperatures during the summer are unforgiving (as high as 120 °F); 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, 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.

It is a very provocative place to visit. First stop: Salvation Mountain.






One of the cement slabs that inspired the name for the place.


This guys was protecting his belongings with barbed wire, stop, and stay out signs.


This business helps residents live off the grid.


Think so?


Some residents are pretty creative about reusing discards as yard art. There is no trash service here. No water, sewer system, or electricity either.




Sorry we missed the weekly swap meet.


And the Thursday afternoon concert.


Shoe tree.


Message signboard as you depart Slab City.

On our way from Slab City to Indio, CA we made a brief stop along the shore of the Salton Sea. This body of water was part of the Gulf of California until about 4.4 million years ago.  The Colorado River silt eventually blocked off the gulf and separated the region from the Pacific Ocean.

The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault. Its surface is 234 feet below sea level. The sea is fed by the New,Whitewater, and Alamo rivers, as well as agricultural runoff, drainage systems, and creeks, but it has no outlet. The lake’s salinity is greater than that of the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Very few species of fish can survive here.

The sea, which is California’s largest inland lake, supports a spectacular bird population that is among the most concentrated and most diverse in the world. Sadly, this crucial stopover along the Pacific Flyway for migratory and wintering shorebirds, land birds, and waterfowl is dangerously close to collapse from several environmental threats. More than 400 species and subspecies in all have been spotted here.


“The Beach” on the northeast shore of the Salton Sea.


The “sand” is made up of millions of crustacean shells.

Next stop: “Civilization.”



  1. You didn’t stay at Slab City !! Salton Sea always fascinated me…
    Hey, it is letting me post……

  2. Wow – slab city… off the grid. I’d rather be on! Interesting… the choices people make.

  3. Huh. I thought I had read where the Salton Sea was late 1940’s man-made lake and a mistake. Maybe it was an attempt to enlarge it. Slab City theme song might be Jimmy Buffet’s “12 Volt Man” song.

    • It was a natural lake which was enlarged by man. It was supposed to be a recreational area with fishing and water sports which failed – interesting old ruined restaurants visible the last time I was there. Governor Brown just budgeted funds to rescue the natural habitat.

  4. You were much kinder to residents of Slab City then we were. Keith may have described more as the dregs of society washed up on cement slabs. We had found a cheesy, awful diary that had been left at Joshua Tree “to be found and passed on”. After we read a few entries I told Keith that it was a desecration to Joshua Tree and I was going to ditch it. We ended up taking it to Slab City and threw it in “The Last Free Place” box, much more appropriate place. I really didn’t understand, why if you could afford hundreds of thousands of dollars for an RV, would you choose Slab City to park it. There are a lot more attractive BLM locations in AZ and Nevada. There is a documentary, Bombay Beach, that really gives a good idea of inhabitants of Slab City and environs of Salton Sea.

    We had a funny follow-up a year ago to visit to Slab City. There was a local tea shop/gallery that was having a show of photos taken by a young woman who was making a documentary of Slab City. Keith and I were about the only people there who knew Slab City and we spent time talking to the young film maker. She was a beautiful and ever so kind. She was hoping to interview the old guy that started Salvation Mountain, but he died the day before she got there. She obviously has a soft spot for the different and downtrodden in life. A grossly obese woman, who was obviously a good friend came up and they started talking about this church in Denver for “life’s outcasts.” Guess the film maker also has a whole series of pics of people who go to the church. Have yet to see anything about the film, so don’t know if it ever got finished. I think Salvation Mountain is on the National Register of Folk Art.


    Sent from my iPad


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