Niland, California is 2 miles southeast of the Salton Sea at an elevation of 141 feet with an official population of just over 1,200 people. For those in the know, this is the gateway to Slab city, Salvation Mountain and Bombay Beach.
Slab City has been the haven of thousands of RVers and a few others. Camping is free and unregulated. There are no services, but water and dumping privileges can be purchased in Niland.
No one knows the exact population of this area as it is made of squatters and seasonal snowbirds who live in RVs and vehicles among the concrete remnants. There are serious RVers, snowbirds, an assortment of colorful characters, and a few eccentrics who live here year round.
Slab City was the site of a military base during World War II. After the war the military left nothing remained except concrete slabs where the buildings stood. Slab City is a popular gathering place every winter for RVers who come to boondock and enjoy what many call the last great bastion of freedom in America.
To get there, take Main Street heading East toward the mountains and follow it over the railroad tracks then into open country for a few miles. You'll see a defunct guard station along the road saying, "Welcome to Slab City."
Salvation Mountain is now part of the cultural landscape. It continues to thrive and grow with steps carved into the mountain to allow visitors to ascend to the upper terraces. It is one man's unique dream which you can pretty much climb anywhere you like on it for a photo opportunity. Citizens and snowbirds of Niland, the Slabs, and surrounding areas have continued to visit and support Leonard in his work all of these years.
Bombay Beach is a half-submerged wasteland of derelict buses and vehicles. Not the prettiest site, but it is different.
This area is one of those places you either love or hate. Some say it is a great place to spend the winter. It is out in the Mojave desert, where American fugitives from family or the law have camped out for 40 years. Some say that snowbirds go where angels fear to tread. Check it out and draw your own conclusions.
For those wanting a little more structure to their RV life, the Fountain of Youth Spa in Niland offers a full array of amenities with uncommonly friendly service. Facilities include 835 full hook-up sites with 30 and 50 amp electric service, along with individual mineral water baths, two large pool areas with two swimming pools, a rejuvenating artesian mineral water hot spa and three fresh water hot spas, including an oversized waterfall spa.
Situated in a peaceful, scenic environment in the Southern California desert, the major nearby landmarks include the Salton Sea, Chocolate Mountains and the Coachella Canal.