Thursday, November 11, 2010

Slab City, CA


We had a nice drive through Box Canyon and along the shores of the Salton Sea yesterday.


The sea was created in 1905 when heavy flooding of the Colorado River caused a breach in a dike, forming 2 new rivers which flooded the Salton Basin, a former salt mine. There was no way for water to run out, so the sea remained. The salinity levels are higher than the ocean, so the only fish that survive are talapia. We thought we might camp along the lake, as there is a huge state recreation area, but the camping areas just didn’t look very inviting, and we really wanted to visit Slab City, another 25 miles south.

So we went on to Niland, headed east for 3 miles, and came upon Slab City, or The Slabs. This area was a former WWII Navy base, Camp Dunlap. After the war the camp was abandoned and the buildings demolished. All that remained were the concrete slabs, hence the name.


People started coming and parking RV’s in the area, and soon it became a place for snowbirds to winter, and for other interesting characters to set up their homes. The state of California owns the land but does not maintain it, so there is no charge to camp there.There is also no water, electric, or garbage pick-up, so these people are truly living off the grid. We saw everything from newer RV’s to dilapidated looking ones that were hard to imagine anyone actually living in.






Everyone has solar panels, and the permanent residents have 100 gallon water tanks, which someone comes around and fills from time to time. We aren’t sure what they do with their sewage, as many of the rigs don’t look like they could drive to Niland to the dump station. We asked a guy if any trucks came around to pump out tanks, and he said no, this is the desert, with the implication that they just dump it anywhere. If that’s the case, luckily we didn’t notice any odors.


We saw a local bar.


There is also a church and library. The library sign says it is open 24/7, which isn’t surprising after we went in. There isn’t much in the way of walls or a ceiling. Jim picked up one paperback, which he came home and cleaned with Lysol. Most of the books had lots of spider webs, dust and dirt on them. There was a sign that said the librarian had quit because he got tired of picking up dog pooh.




This work of art was next to the library. Yes, that is our president’s photo in the toilet seat.


The most famous resident of Slab City is Leonard Knight, who is close to 80 years old, and has been building Salvation Mountain for over 25 years now.


This is his way of spreading the word of God, and you have to admire his passion. We forgot to get his picture, but we met him and toured the mountain. He loves visitors, and gives everyone something. He gave us a video, a magnet, and postcard of the place. He is so nice you can’t refuse! He’s used over 100,000 gallons of paint so far, along with old tires, tree branches, hay bales and adobe. It was fascinating.









It was an enjoyable day in an unusual place, and we’re glad we went.


  1. What a shame that the "librarian" quit. I heard about that last year but was hoping he changed his mind.

  2. Looks like an interesting place full of "characters".

  3. We would agree with calling it unusual. Glad we went. We spent one night there. Not in a hurry to do it again!