Sunday, December 4, 2011

Slab City

We’ve heard about Slab City (or The Slabs as some call it) ever since we’ve been fulltiming.  It’s a place out in the California desert near the Salton Sea, outside of the town of Niland, where lots of folks go to boondock for free. 

Linda Mossman found the history of Slab City online. Slab City “started in 1942 when the Navy acquired 631 acres of desert land east of Niland at the western foot of the Chocolate Mountains for use as the Camp Dunlap Naval Reservation.  The Marine Corps used Camp Dunlap as a training center, and some 185,000 troops were field artillery-trained here.  When the war ended, training ended. However, the post is said to have been active until 1949, finally being demolished in 1956, with all the buildings being removed and the site abandoned.”  There are still the foundations or slabs of the 30 or so buildings that were out there, thus the name The Slabs.

We’ve always wanted to go out there, but never have.  Our friend, Marty, stays out at The Slabs a lot and just left us to go over there Wednesday (there’s a tamale festival in Indio this weekend he wanted to attend). With Marty out there to be our tour guide we decided to go out there Friday with The Mossman’s. 

The first thing you see when you drive out to The Slabs is Salvation Mountain, as it is called.  It was built by Leonard Knight over a period of 20 years as his tribute to God, and he continues to add on to it.  He made mud from the available mountain and fashioned his sculpture on the side of the mountain and painted it with over 50,000 gallons of paint….in all sorts of colors.  It’s 34 feet tall and some 150 feet wide.
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We spent some time investigating Salvation Mountain as there is so much to see. There is a new part on the right hand side that contain little rooms you can walk through, all painted in bright colors

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Even cars, trucks even tractors are covered in mud and painted
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Close up of painted mud on a vehicle. I think it is beautiful.
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Empty paint cans
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National Folk Art Site
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Inside right side building
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Shrine alcove
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Linda enjoys the paintings
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Look at all this!!!
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So artistic
Slab City 2011 (24) A “room” inside, notice the table and TV on the left and the car door on the right. Slab City 2011 (11)
Car covered in sayings all created with mud and paint

Afterwards we drove down the road and into Slab City proper.  I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t what I expected.  It was very much like Quartzsite with RVs parked here and there.

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What I wasn’t expecting was how organized everything really is.  The paved roads are almost gone, but the road beds are still there and they form a well defined grid of intersecting roads even with street signs. 

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Old guard house.
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Bulletin board
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Road signs directing the way
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Street junction
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Lines of RVs
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No trespassing signs block entrance
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Rig on top of a slab. Note the concrete steps
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Netting reduces heat
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Some are set up to stay
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“art cars” pimped up

The Slabs is set up as a little community all it own.  There is a clothes exchange--piles of clothes on an empty slab. Also a library area with book exchange.

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Here’s a church
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Onsite pirate radio station on air 9 to 9
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Internet cafe
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Oasis nightclub opened on weekends

More about the nightclub-it sits on a large slab, complete with it’s own seating.  All gathered from the desert where it was all dumped.

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Even has a private, discreet seating area

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This whole place reminds be of the old 1950 bohemian days, where anything and everything goes. There are folks with dreadlocks in hippy clothes. Jim saw a woman on the back of a motorcycle completely nude, and yet there is what society would call “normal” folks, too, all living together in harmony, in their own way.  Block 17 is where our friend, Tom, usually stays with the LOWs. Marty stays across the street in a different area.  There is even an area where Escapees gather together.  And there are areas where Marty said he would not walk around at night.  You need to be mindful of your surroundings.  There are what some would call shacks and yet there are beautiful Class A’s and a lot of fifth-wheels along with tents covered in tarps.

Like Quartzsite, The Slabs is not for everybody.  I think you’d either love it or hate it.  And like Quartzsite, it is somewhere everyone should experience at least once to make up their own mind.  The Mossman’s said they would “pass”, my Jim is undecided, and me….it’s my kind of place!  I loved it and really liked the “vibe” of the whole place.  I really enjoy the diversity of all the people and all the lifestyles.

I hope you liked the tour.  Remember, you are loved.


  1. Thank you for the awesome tour! I was just thinking this morning..."does anyone ever go to slab city?"
    What a kick! We have got to check it out... as an experience... dont think we would probably stay long.

  2. Love the tour, Bobbie! I've always wondered about that place ever since I first heard about it! We'll have to check it out sometime. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Bobbie, watch your back out there...its not 1969 any more...stay in a "good"'ll know what I mean.

  4. Interesting place to say the least. The ingenuity of the human mind never ceases to amaze me.

  5. Looks like you found the home of the Rainbow people...

    Enjoy , Andy

  6. Did you check out the "community shower"? A few years ago we drove in, found a "character" I knew from online and he was not one I would normally socialize with once we saw him. (I'll tell you the details in person.) Anyway, Luke asked if this was going to be the same with all my other online friends. We did not stay!

  7. Now just a minute we stay out there for 11 years. There good people out there. If you have not done it be silent. every one wants to tell a story. And knows nothing about it, just like to run there mouth. Were made lots of friends out there. You find bad in your own back yard if you admit it.We walk everyday nothing happen to us better them 2 miles.

  8. Nick Russell told us back on '07 that the Slabs was a place you would either love or hate but that everyone should experience it once. I'm with you Bobbie. we went there for one night and stayed a week. we were invited to join a group of Canadians near the library and had a wonderful time with them ,never once feeling apprehensive. Had a great Pot luck breakfast after a non denominational church service.

    We'd like to go back sometime particularly if we had friends to go with.


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