What It’s Like In Slab City — "The Last Free Place” in America"

On an abandoned Marine Corps base in the Southern California desert lies Slab City, home to a makeshift community of artists, misfits, snowbirds and survivalists. Known as “the last free place in America,” it’s living testimony to freedom in all of its contradictory forms, both beautiful and bleak. The former Camp Dunlap was fully dismantled in 1956 and all 631 acres were handed over to the state of California in 1961. Since then, the state has had a “hands-off” policy in governing the area. While most people would expect that it’s a lawless place where people just do as they please, it’s actually very much a community. Even without an electrical grid or running water, there are hallmarks of normal community life at Slab City: coffee shops, cafes, bars, lending libraries, and music venues. Commerce operates by donation or barter, with a modest revenue generated by permanent and elaborate art installations. There’s even a church — Slab City Christian Center — where anyone is welcome to join the Sunday worship service. As many as 4,000 people live in Slab City, including retirees, hippie dropouts, retirees, and preppers who want to live free of government intrusion. A retired professor even rigged up a large solar oven and hydroponic garden that grows fresh vegetables in the unrelenting desert sun. The conditions might be harsh at times, but for some, rejecting the trappings of society for sun-bleached freedom is a fair trade.