[WORLDKINGS] Exceptional places around the world (P.72) - Slab City (USA) : The town of outcasts, squatters, and desert dwellers


(WorldKings.org) The isolated desert town was created by transient, freedom-seeking people like these, all living off the grid in trailers, tents, lean-tos, and broken-down school buses in a remote patch of the Sonoran Desert, on the eastern shore of the Salton Sea.

Here, the word “city” is a bit of a misnomer. The Slabs, as the town is known, has no connection to the main power grid, no trash or water services, and a general lack of basic amenities. The encampment is as bare-bones as it gets. Streets are made of hardened dirt, most structures are built from salvaged materials.

But despite its wild appearance, Slab City has undergone a significant transformation in the last few years. Now its population swells to a few thousand people in the winter months and roughly 150 in the summer when temperatures can soar up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and leave desert dwellers particularly vulnerable. But with a bigger population comes real city problems: theft, drug abuse, an influx of trash, and the challenge of successfully starting community programs.

Situated on 640 acres of public land located about 50 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Imperial County, California, Slab City sits on the site of Camp Dunlap, a former U.S. Marine Corps base. During its peak in the 1940s, the camp housed a laboratory for testing how well concrete survived in the harsh climate of the Sonoran Desert, but by the end of World War II, the government shut down operations. Noticing an opportunity, squatters soon staked their claim on the area, building a hodgepodge of residences using the concrete slabs that remained coupled with whatever materials they could find.

The land is owned by the state of California, technically making those who live here squatters.

Today, the remote town has adopted some elements of a bona fide city. The streets are named, there’s a small library, a few establishments sell food, and several places are available to rent on Airbnb. Located at the entrance of the Slabs, Salvation Mountain - a technicolor art project created by local artist Leonard Knight—also brings in dozens of camera-wielding tourists a day.

According to roadtrippers.com

Mihan (Collect and edit) (World Records Union - WorldKings.org)


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