top of page

Outlaws and Hippies City: Slab City

Under the harsh rays of the sun, in the desolate and arid lands of Imperial County, California, Slab City stands out as a settlement that pushes the boundaries of imagination. Located about 50 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, nestled at the foot of the Sonoran Desert and Salvation Mountain, this area has taken root where the former U.S. Marine Corps base, Camp Dunlap, once stood. Throughout its history, this land has served various purposes, but today it has been reborn with a distinct identity.

The origins of Slab City trace back to the mid-1940s. During that time, Camp Dunlap functioned as a laboratory where concrete experiments were conducted to test its resilience in the unforgiving climate of the Sonoran Desert. However, these military operations came to an end towards the close of World War II. It was at this point that a different community emerged: a community of hippies, the homeless, and substance abusers. Seizing the opportunity provided by the now-vacant land, these individuals began constructing various dwellings and works of art using the materials at their disposal.

Today, while technically part of the state of California, Slab City maintains its own rules, dynamics, and community, serving as a haven for free spirits to gather. Spanning 640 acres of vast public land, this unique settlement may not fit the conventional notion of a "city," but it offers a unique blend of shelter, art, and alternative ways of life.

One of Slab City's most remarkable features is the towering structure known as Salvation Mountain. This vibrant mountain is a masterpiece where creativity and faith intertwine. Created over years of dedication by Leonard Knight, this mountain is adorned with thousands of gallons of paint and covered in various symbols. While only a visible part of Slab City visited by tourists, it serves as a symbol of the area's unique character.

The distinctive atmosphere of Slab City has become a sanctuary for those embracing alternative lifestyles. The community here revels in living by their own rules, far from conventional societal norms. This space is regarded as a platform where freedom and creativity converge. However, due to the presence of substance abusers and criminals, the city also witnesses a range of unpunished crimes. In the absence of laws and regulations, individuals ensure their safety through firearms or various precautionary measures.

In conclusion, Slab City represents a unique synthesis of history and alternative living. Established upon the concrete slabs bearing the traces of World War II, this community of free spirits has carved out a living space surrounded by the colorful facade of Salvation Mountain, artistic creations, and diverse residences. Rather than living homeless on cardboard scraps, those who have chosen Slab City have willingly embraced risks, transforming it into not only a physical but also a philosophical haven that inspires its visitors.



bottom of page