Sunday, May 18, 2014

Photo Essay: Boron Air Force Station / Boron Federal Prison, Abandoned (Mostly)

Even though I do quite a bit of urban exploration, I generally try to avoid trespassing – at least, noticeably trespassing, in populated areas where I might actually be spotted and, God forbid, arrested.

I made an exception for the former Boron Air Force Station, whose FAA surveillance tower rises high above Route 395 as you head north towards Death Valley or the Eastern Sierras.



It was once the Boron Federal Prison...



....so if I'd gotten arrested, at least it would've been with some poetic justice.



The property bears all the markings of a truly abandoned military site:



...a crumbling front entrance...



...a vacant security kiosk...



...an open gate...



...a cracked pavement parking lot...



...deranged palm trees...



...and derelict buildings.



Located about seven miles north of Boron, CA, this abandoned air force station was primarily used for general surveillance radar...



...until it was closed in 1975...



...and ultimately turned over to the FAA.



Prompted by the start of the Korean War, it was part of a permanent network of similar facilities...



...commissioned to detect whether aircraft flying overhead was friendly or unfriendly.



I felt a similar paranoia while exploring the site...



...constantly looking over my shoulder...



...anticipating unfriendly company.



Clearly, more than Mother Nature has created some of the destruction evident at the air force station today...



...with broken windows, burned-out buildings, and rubble everywhere.



In 1979, the Boron AFS was converted into the Boron Federal Prison...



...which housed minimum security male inmates.



There's a parkour course that runs up the hillside, likely a vestige from the military base or the prison.



The inmates at Boron assembled military vehicles on the base...



...and, because it was minimum security, some even had jobs in town.



The Boron Federal Prison Camp did have a few escapees...



...especially since it featured no barbed wire fences, exterior walls, or gun towers to keep the inmates in.



It was considered "low-key" and "privileged," so most inmates would rather stay there than face the severity of a traditional prison environment.



Most of the white collar criminals that Boron Federal Prison housed wouldn't survive regular priso, and wouldn't risk being sent there by escaping.



Still, 45 year old Orange County businessman Ronald L. Rushton fled the prison in 1988 while serving two counts of mail fraud. After his escape, he was indicted on 28 counts of mail and bankruptcy fraud.



Four years later, 68 year old pornographer Reuben Sturman, who was serving 10 years for tax evasion, racketeering and shipping obscene material through the mail, managed to get out in 1992, despite all of its amenities: shuffleboard, softball, educational classes, and living in a redwood dormitory instead of a cellblock.



The prison was so civilized, it hosted the first-ever bar mitzvah inside a California state or federal prison ever, in 1986.



Although the structures from the air force station and the prison have been left to rot...



...and be vandalized...



...the facilities at the summit appear to be untouched...



...protected...



...by an unseen guardian.



Why do we still need a site like this?



Is it because of nearby Edwards Air Force Base? The nearby airstrip off Castle Road? Some other airport?



Why keep it in such decrepit condition if it's actively being used?



You don't want to get too close...



...but it's the one thing you want to get close to...



...its entrancing white globe...



...the thing that attracted you up here to the hilltop...



...the one thing you can see from the road below, but that the military doesn't want anyone to know anything about.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Hidden Ruins of the Super-Secret Spy Plane Test Project, Suntan
Photo Essay: Test Pilot Crash Sites in the Mojave Desert