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December 17, 2002

Strange places in Boron, CA

On my list of blog to-writes, I forgot this one, so I thought I'd get it out of the way.

Previously, on my way from Phx, AZ to Mammoth, I'd seen a large structure on West side of the 395 between where the 395 splits from the 15 and where the 395 joins the 14 in a town called Boron, CA (though there are no signs that tell you this). Its about 80-100 miles from the 14. It was a large square concrete building with a large, white, Epcot looking glove on top almost equal in size to the building. This time on my way back from Phx I couldn't help but stop to have a look. The building was on a hill way down a narrow paved road. Immediately after I pulled off the 395 I saw a sign denoting this a Federal Prison, and politely asking those interested, to go away and not trespass. Being who I am, this was more an invitation then not. So I began driving up the long narrow road. I should also mention that a storm was moving through as this was happening. The sky was dark and a cold wind was whipping through the valley I appeared to be in.

In the distance I could just make out some buildings. The closer I got the more the signs became less polite and more demanding, making sure I knew that this was government property and I should leave immediately, but also the more it appeared the place was desolate! Deserted! Finally, I pulled up to the administrative buildings and confirmed that the place was deserted by all appearances.

Upon first inspection, it did not look like any prison I'd ever seen. There was a computer room, a laundry mat, some dorm rooms (without locks), a fire station, etc... I walked towards, and into, the two story dorms. They looked much like school dorms. There was very little to hint these were in some sort of prison. But it was what I found on the other side of the dorms that was particularly disturbing.

I found a neighborhood of maybe 60-100 houses on either side of a ~1 mi paved loop. The houses looked new. Most of the windows were boarded up, but other than that, they were in perfect shape. They looked similar, but not identical. All wood. Each with a 1 car garage. You could walk in and through any and all of them. It was eerie to the point of being scary walking down a street in what appeared to be, an ordinary neighborhood, with a park for kids, a community center and all! It was like a scene from a bad movie, where had everyone gone? The wind occasionally opened and closed gates with a horrible creaking noise. There was certainly nothing that said this was a Federal Prison. It also struck me how new this all looked. In each house, the carpet looked good, all the facilities were in tact (though not running), no glass was broken. I started looking for dates and eventually found a newspaper from May of 99. Less then 3 years ago! The more I saw, the more frightened I got, for no apparent reason. It was all just too odd.

It was at this point I decided to go back to my truck. As I walked back through the empty neighborhood, something caught my eye in one of the few open garages. There was writing on the white plywood walls of the garage. I went in to investigate. What I saw was even more bazaar than the rest. It appeared that this garage had, at one time, served as the command center for the prison guards during some sort of hostage situation. There were a couple vertical timelines with items like:
"10:05: Screaming heard, 10:15: initiated contact with prisoners, 10:30: Gun shots heard, is someone dead?"
There was another chart which listed their demands, the noises heard, their contacts, etc... One of the lists had the number 315, which appeared to be an address, in context. I immediately left the garage in search of 315 which turned out to be across the street and a couple doors down. Walking into that house was strange. It was clearly no in as good a shape as the others. Broken class, stuff all over the floor. I meandered into the bedroom which had a window looking onto the street, with a view of the garage with the writing in it. On the floor of this room I found gun shells, some of which I kept.

I walked back down the street, through the fire-house area, to my car. I then drove around the perimeter to try and find a way to drive into the facility, around all the road blocks they set up. I eventually found a convoluted way through many dirt roads, up to the mysterious epcot building. It turned out to be an FAA radio tower of some sort, still in operation... and locked :( After this discovery, I finally went home.

I tried looking on the Internet for references to the prison to try and figure out why it was abandoned so recently. I found some references to the prison, but nothing of interest. The mystery still remains.

Posted by wonko at December 17, 2002 06:44 AM


The prison in question was a prison back when I graduated from the illustrious Boron Jr. Sr. High School back in 1995. It was mainly used to house white-collar criminals and convicts with 6 months or less time to serve.

I am not sure exactly what happened there, though I never heard of any hostage situation. In fact, until now I didn't know it was abandoned.

As for the golf ball-shaped tower, I had always heard it was an old radar tower built by the Air Force base before the prison came to be. I guess the government already owned the land, and figured the middle of nowhere was the best place to put a prison. It was both land they already owned and a way to secure the tower.

There is a good chance that the tower is now obsolete as a radar station but it's high vantage point makes it a fine place for a communications tower. It was probably converted at some point.

The houses you wrote about were quite nice for the families of the guards. Prisoners took care of the grounds and whatnot, so it was always well mowed and maintained. Many of the houses, although old and small, had wood floors and were really quite nice.

Ironically, I always thought living at the prison was so remote, whereas Boron and it's suburb Desert Lake actually had a store and a gas station (if not a stoplight), and so we lived in relative comfort compared to the prison people.

Posted by: Jer at February 26, 2003 11:07 AM


Posted by: at March 16, 2003 08:51 PM



Posted by: DERRICK at April 21, 2003 05:22 AM



Posted by: DERRICK at April 21, 2003 05:24 AM

The site in question was the former Boron Air Force Station, home first to the 750th Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) Squadron, and then to the 750th Radar Squadron (SAGE). This was one of roughly 200 long-range air-defense radar stations in the continental US that was constantly on the lookout for attack by Soviet manned bombers during the Cold War. The Air Force ceased operations at Boron AFS in 1975, but the FAA continues to use the search radar to this day for air traffic control. The cantonment area was used as a Federal Prison after the Air Force moved out, but the prison closed in August 1999, reportedly due to budgetary cutbacks. For more information and photos (past and present), visit the Online Air-Defense Radar Museum at http://www.radomes.org/museum/. To get to the "Boron AFS" page, click on "Radar Sites" on the left side menu, then enter "Boron" in the search window, hit return, and click on the link. Once on the "Boron AFS" page, scroll down, and click on individual links for more information. Enjoy!

Posted by: Tom Page at May 22, 2003 01:42 PM


Posted by: RANDY SCOTT at June 16, 2003 01:33 AM


Posted by: RANDY SCOTT at June 16, 2003 01:33 AM

I was there from 71-74. At that time there were about 100 active duty AF stationed there. It was my first assignment in the AF. Needless to say I volunteered world-wide to get an assignment out of there. Still... I have many good memories of Boron. I think I remember Jose Brito... he was in charge of the Motor Pool as I recall. The housing area back then had about 25 homes in it for the married personnel. I happened to be through there in early 90's while the prison was still active. Drove up to admin building (used to be NCO Club) but they were closed for the day. Started talking to a couple guys who turned out to be prisoners. They said I shouldn't be up there and that I should leave... I did.

Posted by: Mike McCormick at July 12, 2003 09:33 PM

Hey Mike McCormick, Its Scott MacLeod rember we work in the same shop, With Ray.. Email me at
samac13@chater.net it world be great to talk to you... What ever happen to Woodie

Posted by: Scott MacLeod at September 3, 2003 11:09 PM

Was UPA-35 radar operator at Boron AFS and lived in Boron from 6/78 thru 6/68. Actually liked it.
Served Melville (Goose Bay) and Keflavik Iceland (awacs) for 1 year remote tour.Now ch. pilot for Fla. Dept. of Corrections & hope to retire in 3-4 years.
Best Wishes---kilo charlie

Posted by: keith culpepper at September 17, 2003 11:18 AM

Was UPA-35 radar operator at Boron AFS and lived in Boron from 6/78 thru 6/68. Actually liked it.
Served Melville (Goose Bay) and Keflavik Iceland (awacs) for 1 year remote tour.Now ch. pilot for Fla. Dept. of Corrections & hope to retire in 3-4 years.
Best Wishes---kilo charlie

Posted by: keith culpepper at September 17, 2003 11:19 AM

I was a correctional officer at the time the facility closed down; I have recently been back on property to take some photo's and to look around. Anyone interested in information regarding the prison years of this location, please feel free to e-mail me.

Capt. C. Kelly

Posted by: Carolyn Kelly at September 19, 2003 10:42 PM

I just returned from FPC Boron where I took some great photo's and relived some wonderful memories. After extensive research, I found out that there was no hostage situation that took place and both the shell casings and hostage command center were part of ongoing training for the BOP staff after the facility was deactivated. There is a lot of history in that facility and even a stairwell that goes underground to someplace no one knows. Anyone interested in discussing this further, please e-mail me as I am working on a book about the history of this facility.

Capt C. Kelly

Posted by: Capt. C. Kelly at September 21, 2003 03:50 PM

The Prison at Boron is no longer there. It went out of business almost 2 years ago. It was a prison for VETERANS, not your "run of the mill" hardened criminals.

I called there once on the phone, and they were pretty nasty. I never stopped there, but once it was put "out of business", I was tempted to take the sign, but it would have been obvious that I was tampering with FEDERAL property, so I didn't.

Now, if you want to see a really WEIRD town, check out Ridgecrest, about 50 miles North of Boron, or worse, Trona, 23 miles East of Ridgecrest, on the way to Death Valley.

The intersection of U.S. 395 and CA 58, normally called "4-Corners", but "officially" Kramer Jct., is just the intersection. No one LIVES in Kramer Jct., which is in San Bernardino Co., but 6 miles West is the town of Boron, in Kern Co.

Ya gotta do your HOMEWORK!

Posted by: Robert Moe at January 31, 2004 05:02 AM

Pls correct error in my comment. I served at Boron Air Force Station from 6/67 thru 6/68. Thanks and best wishes,
Keith Culpepper

Posted by: Keith Culpepper at April 17, 2004 05:51 AM

Thanks for mentioning Ridgecrest and TRONA, I happen to live near both towns. They aint half as weird as the now empty prison. Now that I know it's empty I want to go and check it out...I wonder if it's for sale??

Posted by: tomy at May 20, 2004 03:41 AM

I'm a Trona Resident, being 20 years old, I've seen and heard some really weird stuff out here. Like patterns of orange balls of light in the eastern sky right before sunup, seen strange colored lights being emitted from the back of hillside to the west where china lake naval air weapons center is located...have looked at sattelight imaging of it and found about a 50 mile long circle where nothing on the ground will grow anymore(images from an old archive back in 1994). we have always been wondering about that prison up there on that hill though, my friends, friends dad used to work up there back in 99...no info as of yet though. I Rember back in 1997 we where having series of earthquakes about every 2 days ranging from small 2.0 tremors all the way up to 5.0 earthquakes...this went of for about 2 months while the supposed "auroa project" was supposed to be being tested... short of all that the only strangest thing I've seen around here is the locals... peace out. Thanks for havin me.

Posted by: Ivan Amerson at May 20, 2004 03:46 AM

Well We did it. We stopped at the old prison and it is an earrie place. The sun had just set, but we still had some daylight left, so we explored some of the buildings. We had become fairly comfortable with the idea that we were there alone and continued with a flashlight. As we began exploring further, walking up a hill towards the radar ball is when I noticed fresh tire tracks, not just one set but several looking pretty well traveled. That's when we decided maybe we should go, but this and that would catch our eye and off exploring we would go again.
The wind was blowing and doors were creaking and overgrown plants rubbed on buildings and sidewalks making it even scarrier. Then again, shit! more tire tracks- fresh too; so it was back to beating feet out of there. I have to admit it was an adventure.
The Federal Government should look into putting that prison site up for sale, what could it hurt to get back some revenue for a useless piece of property that with some work could become a lovely desert oaisis.

Posted by: Tomy at June 17, 2004 10:42 PM

Hi There: Glad to be stopping by here again. I am in the process of writing a book about the History of the Federal Prison Camp at Boron. If there is anyone out there that has photo's or facts please e-mail or call me... 702-457-6644.


Posted by: Capt. Carolyn Kelly at July 4, 2004 08:50 AM

Within the mentioned "50 mile radius" of Boron there exists some of the finest people I have ever known. I hope to return one day and find that beautiful small desert town as clean, nice, and friendly as I left it in 1967. Anyone remember Jimini Market, Swede Johnson, the Shepards, the borax mine strike of '67, the train incident during the strike, Arabian Oasis? My wife Ann and I are definitely "tree huggers" and I hope she will enjoy Boron, even if for a short visit. I told her there were trees everywhere in Boron but forgot to tell her they are disguised as sage brush and Joshua trees.

Posted by: Keith Culpepper at July 28, 2004 04:38 AM

I was an inmate at FPC Boron from 1/96 to 2/99. It was a facility where inmates sentenced to 10 years or less could serve their time. Most of the inmates were drug dealers, with only about 10% white collar criminals. There was virtually no security--no locks on the dorm room doors, no fence, no guard towers--and every other month or so an inmate would merely walk out to the road after dark to meet a friend and drive away. Many of us worked at Edwards AFB, unsupervised by any prison staff. At the prison camp we had tennis courts, a salad bar, pool hall, band room, and weekends and all federal holidays off from work. No federal tax on items we bought at the commissary. It was an obscene waste of tax dollars and human resources. Inmates are cash cows to the bloated BOP, and for all the non-violent offenders at Boron, society would have been better served to require community service of us rather than to warehouse us under conditions that could hardly be considered punishment and served only to fleece the taxpayers. My stay at Boron was nothing more than an inconvenience, and the only scary thing about low security federal prison is the realization that you could spend the rest of your life there in relative comfort and satisfaction.

Posted by: Bill at August 6, 2004 12:24 PM

I was a long time resident of Boron and remember both Swede Johnson (my husband's family received a dog from him) and the Shepard's were my mother's best friends (they owned Pop's Slot Shop). My husband's former step-father used to work at the Radar site, along with a former friend. Boron's a great place.

Posted by: Margaret Leary at November 19, 2004 08:30 PM

I lived in Boron, CA for 12 years. I went to jr High & High School There. I worked in Palmdale CA on the Space Shuttle & the B1-B Bomber. I drove all the way to Palmdale every day for 6 1/2 years using the back road behind Edwards Air Force base. I was laid off in 1990 and moved to Oklahoma in 1996. Kramer Jct used to be called Beakers Corner which is 7 miles east of Boron CA. I have alot of memories out there and still love the desert more than any other place.


Posted by: Walter Gatlin at December 7, 2004 04:20 AM

I am a current resident of Boron, CA and have lived here since I was born in 1985. My father has worked at the US Borax Mine for 35 years. When I was in high school I had many friends that actually lived in the community at the Boron Prison. Their parents were either guards or secretarys of some sort. When I was in 9th grade I was actually good friends with the Wardens son Martin Cobos. I used to travel up there to see my friends and I was actually dating a guy who lived up there. It was such a well-kept community that had alot of fun things to do. I remember I used to get scared about how the prisioners were able to just roam free alot of the time. I recall when I was playing little league softball the inmates at the prison used to umpire the games for us for free. They stopped doing that before the prison closed. The closing was due to financial problems and all of the employees got transfered to different places around the US. I haven't been up there since it has closed but I know people who have. Its sad that all of those nice houses are going to waste when there is so many homeless people in the world!

Posted by: Terra at March 2, 2005 04:07 PM

I was stationed at the 750th AC&W Squadron from September 1957 thru September 1960. At that time it was an active Radar Early Warning installation. It was unofficially known as 'Mockingbird Hill'. I would like to contact anyone that was stationed there from 1957-1960.
It was a very interesting place, both beautiful and lonely.

Posted by: Carl Leach at May 14, 2005 11:16 AM

My father, Enos Hayes, was stationed at 750th in the early 70s. He retired from that base as a lifer. 20 yrs. dedicated service in the USAF. We were a family of 8 and everyone of us has a tale to tell about living in Boron. Loved it! I knew Derrick and his brother Robert. We all had such a good life there, swimming, bowling and hiking in the desert. Remembering the Teen Club and the trip to Disneyland. Our Christmas Play and the time it snowed. So many memories and so long ago but, it is still a fond place I go in my mind and it always makes me smile. I miss it.

Posted by: Leah Lataille (Hayes) at September 27, 2005 06:33 AM

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