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Slab City, CA

In the "last free place on Earth," Slab City. The Range is just over yonder.
In the "last free place on Earth," Slab City. The Range is just over yonder.

Trying to change the negative reputation that the Slabs had acquired over the years as a melting pot for drug addicts, hippies and psych ward releases, Builder Bill created the Range, just southeast of the Naval Aerial Gunnery Range. Here, he hosts weekly open mike nights, talent shows, movies, the annual Slab City Prom, and the famed Slab City Riot that draws thousands each year.

Not many places left in the world where you can experience free live entertainment beneath the stars in the open air, but the Range, with its diesel-generated stage decorated with hubcaps and twinkle lights, is one such place.

Constructed on one of the abandoned concrete slabs left behind by the military when they decommissioned Camp Dunlap back in 1956, the venue invites visitors to sit and watch the show on rows of threadbare theater seats, gather around the rusty trash cans used for bonfires and dance the night away to “sounds of freedom.”

Often called the “last free place on Earth,” Slab City attracts snowbirds, retirees from the north escaping winter, bikers, and those who have come to be referred to simply as “slabbers.”

Slabbers are a mixed bag of free-roaming folks: normal folks like you and I, of the college-educated and the hardworking, of former federal employees, teachers and master chefs. Of hobos, young drifters and limited-income widows. Together, they’ve resurrected a makeshift city, including a church, radio station, library and “pub.”

The Slab City Organization was formed to ensure the Slabs are a healthy, happy place for those choosing to live there by addressing – primarily but not exclusively – the issue of illegal dumping. As squatters on state land, Slabbers are responsible for minimizing and disposing of all the waste they produce.

If Mark Boyle, the freeconomist “Moneyless Man”, can do it, others consciously choosing to live off the grid and on land not served by public utilities should be able to do the same. (As with any community, some do a better job of it than others.)

Unlike other communities supported by tax dollars, it’s up to the residents of Slab City to keep one another in check – not necessarily an easy task in any neighborhood, let alone one that’s clinging to the fringes of the law in an isolated, scorpion-infested dust bowl. Comparatively speaking, there is minimal violence and residents, including the widows, feel safe.

Go early enough to climb Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain and to witness the solar lights turn on up at the East Jesus Sculpture Garden at sunset, straight on through Slab City’s Main Street and around to the left.

The Range will be halfway on your right. Look for the sign.

(Check out slab-city.com for more info, including area maps.)

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In the "last free place on Earth," Slab City. The Range is just over yonder.
In the "last free place on Earth," Slab City. The Range is just over yonder.

Trying to change the negative reputation that the Slabs had acquired over the years as a melting pot for drug addicts, hippies and psych ward releases, Builder Bill created the Range, just southeast of the Naval Aerial Gunnery Range. Here, he hosts weekly open mike nights, talent shows, movies, the annual Slab City Prom, and the famed Slab City Riot that draws thousands each year.

Not many places left in the world where you can experience free live entertainment beneath the stars in the open air, but the Range, with its diesel-generated stage decorated with hubcaps and twinkle lights, is one such place.

Constructed on one of the abandoned concrete slabs left behind by the military when they decommissioned Camp Dunlap back in 1956, the venue invites visitors to sit and watch the show on rows of threadbare theater seats, gather around the rusty trash cans used for bonfires and dance the night away to “sounds of freedom.”

Often called the “last free place on Earth,” Slab City attracts snowbirds, retirees from the north escaping winter, bikers, and those who have come to be referred to simply as “slabbers.”

Slabbers are a mixed bag of free-roaming folks: normal folks like you and I, of the college-educated and the hardworking, of former federal employees, teachers and master chefs. Of hobos, young drifters and limited-income widows. Together, they’ve resurrected a makeshift city, including a church, radio station, library and “pub.”

The Slab City Organization was formed to ensure the Slabs are a healthy, happy place for those choosing to live there by addressing – primarily but not exclusively – the issue of illegal dumping. As squatters on state land, Slabbers are responsible for minimizing and disposing of all the waste they produce.

If Mark Boyle, the freeconomist “Moneyless Man”, can do it, others consciously choosing to live off the grid and on land not served by public utilities should be able to do the same. (As with any community, some do a better job of it than others.)

Unlike other communities supported by tax dollars, it’s up to the residents of Slab City to keep one another in check – not necessarily an easy task in any neighborhood, let alone one that’s clinging to the fringes of the law in an isolated, scorpion-infested dust bowl. Comparatively speaking, there is minimal violence and residents, including the widows, feel safe.

Go early enough to climb Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain and to witness the solar lights turn on up at the East Jesus Sculpture Garden at sunset, straight on through Slab City’s Main Street and around to the left.

The Range will be halfway on your right. Look for the sign.

(Check out slab-city.com for more info, including area maps.)

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Comments
15

congratulation Ruth...a super article...editors pick eh...methinks ur quickly heading 4 the big time!!!

out of the park as usual!!!

None

May 25, 2012

Thanks, as always Nan!

May 28, 2012

Great article on a cool place! Thanks for linking to my blog post :)

May 25, 2012

Most welcome, Ramblin'Brooke.

May 28, 2012

One of these days I'm going to take a stab at the slabs. Heard so much about them. So, what do they do with their trash?

May 26, 2012

Good question JJ25. Mostly, they build and decorate with what can't be recycled. Smart folks simply shop more consciously than most folks are accustomed to doing, i.e. buying in bulk, using recycled containers to take purchases home in, making the stores themselves responsible for the packaging, particularly that which isn't recyclable. Working on an article that addresses that question more specifically. Thanks for reading.

May 28, 2012

Wasn't there a Slab City on the east shore of the Salton Sea near Niland?

May 26, 2012

Might have been. I think this one is southeast of Salton Sea.

May 27, 2012

Glaring omission. My apologies as this originally was the third part of a longer piece I had done, the location's missing. Slab City is on the south east edge of the Salton Sea, in Niland, yes.

May 28, 2012

put the link in Roody..then we can all read 4 continuity

and note the edit so ppl will come back and see the link

May 28, 2012

I love stories like this. Since I'm probably never going to Italy or New York, I love to read about off the beaten path stuff that I can drive to.

May 29, 2012

Thanks CC. You are fortunate then, because California is loaded with such places. I just can't get enough of the State, personally. Sorry for the delayed response...just didn't see it 'til now. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Nov. 20, 2012

Hi everyone...good article...but a bad link to a fake slab city organization...could it be corrected? Removed?? The real website is slab-city.com Run by real slabbers with authentic info. The other website is run by a guy who isnt even in the slabs...he's collecting $5 and ripping people off . Please be cautious when writing artcles about us and linking random websites...you can always get info from the real slab city site.thankyou

Feb. 20, 2013

Slab-city.com links added

Feb. 20, 2013

HUGE INACCURACY in this article. The Website SlabCity.org was done by a guy who stayed here only 3 weeks years ago. He is NOT a resident and he charges $5 to access OUTDATED info. He is also NOT a REPRESENTATIVE of the community, his site is NOT OFFICIAL and both the winter and summer residents are furious that he is using Slab City as a way to rip off internet users.

Furthermore, his Slab City Organization (FAKE) claiming to clean up the slabs has never contributed to the residents that meet weekly at community meetings and work on solutions for clean up and other community concerns. I personally have never seen him at any of the lot clean ups that I have been to and The Oasis owners are the only ones that have furnished bags for clean up.

So VERY disappointed that the reference in this article was put in as a link because that pushes his website up the page search and more people unaware will end up paying $5 right into his pocket.

So the ONLY Website that the residents and Snowbird Visitors approve of as being representative of The Slabs is http://www.slab-city.com/ as nholman accurately described.

June 23, 2013

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