Located about 140 miles east of San Diego, in the Imperial Valley desert, there is a place that is known as the last free place in America. There, you will find no mayor, no zoning laws, no sewer system, no police force. It’s known as Slab City. It was built on an abandoned military base and offers its residents something much more valuable than modern amenities, it offers them freedom.
Slab City was created when U.S. Marine Corps abandoned a military installation near the town of Niland. Though they dismantled the buildings, they left behind the concrete slabs that served as their foundations. Hence the name Slab City. When workers from the local town found the slabs they built a temporary settlement out of them close to their job site. This initial build and the trailers they had brought with them became the beginnings of the new community. Over time, people from all over the state were drawn to the area. Its isolation being a huge attraction for people who were looking for a way to live off the grid. In this forgotten place, there are no property taxes or utility bills, which makes it ideal for people trying to stretch their pensions or Social Security checks. Even today, Slab City’s population swells to over 4,000 during the cooler winter months.
There is no formal initiation process to becoming a full time resident of Slab City. All that is required is that you simply show up. Once you have found a patch of land that no one else has a claim to, it’s yours. But to live there requires a certain degree of self-reliance. The nearest public amenities are in Niland which is a few miles away. There is just a single communal shower that is fed by a nearby hot spring.
You must be entirely self reliant, electricity will come from a collection of solar panels, generators, and batteries that you will have to set up and provide yourself. Or you can hire “Solar Mike,” a long time Slabber who has been selling and installing solar panels out of his trailer since the 1980s. Though police from Niland occasionally patrol the area and will respond to emergency calls, the community largely polices itself.
Slab city is completely uncontrolled and isolated from government concern. All parking is free and unregulated. Yet, despite the drugs, freedom, isolation and heavy south-California sun, the residents reject seniority and avoid shrewdness, remaining polite and open-armed to newcomers. Hippies, free-spirits, eccentrics and adventurers, people have been living for free in Slab City since the late ’40s.
What do you think? Could you live off the grid in a self made community? We think it could be an awesome experience, but maybe not forever.