If birds of a feather flock together, then bohemian snowbirds flock to Slab City, USA. This radical RV town, also known as The Slabs, is hidden away in the Sonoran Desert in Imperial County, CA. Home to ex-hippies, squatters, and RVers alike, Slab City is an oasis of opportunity for those who want to live off the land and outside of society’s rules. As the self-described “last free place in America,” Slab City, USA, has become more than just a sanctuary for snowbirds and a refuge for the lost. It has become a haven for free-spirited travelers who have never before found a more appropriate place to call home.
The Start of The Slabs
Slab City acquired its name from the concrete slabs left over from abandoned WWII marine barracks known as Camp Dunlap. When Camp Dunlap was decommissioned around 1955, the buildings were dismantled, leaving only the massive concrete foundations still present today. Workers first began inhabiting Slab City to be closer to their job site near Niland, CA, where they were harvesting creosote. Shortly after, displaced campers from Painted Canyon migrated to The Slabs in search of a new place to set up residence. From there, the pop-up town of Slab City continued to thrive into the eccentric community that it is today.
Making Yourself At Home
While around 200 people make The Slabs their year-round home, thousands of others take up temporary residence in the winter months. From gypsy kids who arrive by train to retirees who arrive with their fully-equipped RVs, Slab City welcomes people of all varieties. While you won’t find any electricity, water, or sewer services, you also won’t find any landlords, zoning laws, or rent requests. Inhabitants can stay free of charge among a welcoming community of like-minded iconoclasts. While you sacrifice some residential luxurious when you set up camp at The Slabs, you will get to enjoy an on-site church, a library, and a grassless golf course!
Free entertainment is offered every Saturday night at The Range, which is an open-air music venue located within Slab City. Locals and visitors congregate once a week to host an open mic with acts that vary in performance type and quality. The audience can enjoy lively dancing and seating that includes tattered chairs and beat-up couches. The stage is centered between two broken-down buses, and solar-powered string lights hang above the stage.
You’ll know you’ve arrived at Slab City by its unmistakable entrance known affectionately as Salvation Mountain. This religious monument is a hill of acrylic paint, concrete, adobe, and repurposed materials adorned in bright colors and bible verses. The 3-story-tall hill of Salvation Mountain was built by Leonard Knight who still inhabits the monument, offering tours and making repairs as he sees fit. His unconventional tribute to God is continuously evolving and growing much to the delight of Slab City residents.
On the edge of Slab City you can find another one-of-a-kind attraction known as East Jesus. Unlike Salvation Mountain, East Jesus has no religious connotation or affiliation. Rather it is a renegade art installation made of mixed media and recycled, repurposed materials. Described as a partial exhibition space and a partial build site, East Jesus is founded on the ideals of sustainability, creativity, and untamed artistic expression. Along with Slab City and Salvation Mountain, East Jesus is another incredible gem hidden away in the Californian desert.
Whether you’re a snowbird looking for a unique change of scenery this winter, or you’re a free-spirited RVer seeking an offbeat place to call home, Slab City, USA, might just be the avant-garde community you’re in search of. Have you ever been to The Slabs? Tell us about it in the comments, we’d love to hear!