Slab City is a popular no-fee recreational vehicle “squat” destination located at the outskirts of Niland, population 1,006. The area colloquially known as “The Slabs” was named after the remaining concrete foundations found at the abandoned Camp Dunlap, a World War II Marine desert training base that occupied 640 acres near the San Andreas Fault found along eastern side of the Salton Sea. When the base closed in 1956, land holdings were conveyed back to the State of California by the Department of Defense by 1961. Live ordnance military training maneuvers still take place a few miles away at the Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range.
About 5,000 Snowbirds, Escapees, Loners on Wheels, and other mobile senior citizen groups gather during the winter months to commune, relax and party. There are no fees or services at the Slabs—campers must stock up on water, dump garbage, purchase food and other necessities in town, channeling much needed commerce into Niland’s depressed economy. People here barter and trade for basic necessities, solar panels and other services.
The Slabs feature two outdoor staging areas where campers can gather for free live music and other entertainments. Although some residents live at the Slabs year round, the majority are seasonal—likely due to the fact that temperatures often regularly reach upwards 120 degrees and above during the brutal summer months. Those residents living at the Slabs year round are endearingly called “desert rats.” Many of these individuals survive month-to-month from meager SSI government disability disbursements. A few on occasion supplement their income with more nefarious industry such as “scrapping” brass and high-grade aluminum from spent military ordnance collected from the neighboring Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range which they trade for cash at a local recycling center.
Several interesting sub-sites are located within Slab City including East Jesus, an experimental habitable art installation created by the late Charles “Charlie” Russell. Scenes from the 2007 film, Into the Wild were also shot on location at the Slabs.
POI: Slab City
To visit Slab City drive to south to Niland from the Coachella on Highway 111 located at the eastern shore of the Salton Sea. Ask anyone in town how to get there or just head east past the Southern Pacific train tracks and the power station. Slab City is located further east of Salvation Mountain .
POI: East Jesus