Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison - The Federal Prison Complex

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison – The Federal Prison Complex

 

The Boron Air Force Station was built as part of the second segment of the Air Defense Command radar network, which began due to the Korean War. The 750th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was assigned to this newly built radar command center on January 28t 1952, with the duty to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the unit’s radar scopes. At the time of their arrival, the station was originally called Atolia Air Force Station after the nearby mining town, the name was officially changed to Boron Air Force Station on December 1st, 1953.

In the 1960’s, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) joined with the Air Force in operating the radar facility, and when the 750th Radar Squadron was inactivated on June 130th 1975 the FAA remained and have continued to maintain the radar site to this day.

In 1978, the Federal Government found a new use for this site: they opened the Boron Federal Prison Camp. At the time, this was one of 47 federal prison camps in the country and housed roughly 540 male inmates. Unlike most prisons, this prison had no walls, fences or guns to keep the men in.  A quote from the May 26th 1986 edition of the Los Angeles times describes the security, or lack of, as, “More a state of mind than a state of siege. An imaginary line around the prison and a few inconspicuous “Off Limits” signs are the only boundaries separating freedom from imprisonment.”

 

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison - The radar center is still in use by the FAA

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison – The radar center is still in use by the FAA

 

Many of the inmates had jobs off the prison grounds in the small communities that surround, some you may have even found coaching a local Little League Baseball Team. When they where not working, you could find them utilizing the prison swimming pool or gym, or even taking in some of the activities that the prisons two full-time activity coordinators had planned.

In 2000, the Boron Federal Prison closed it’s doors, and it’s prisoners were moved to the newly built Adelanto Prison. Water costs were sited as one of the main reasons for the closure. It is estimated that the annual water cost was in excess of $500,000 a year.

There are not any “no trespassing”, or “keep out” signs posted at the entrance to the facility or on the grounds. So, as far as I can tell, visiting is perfectly legal. Do keep in mind that the radar facility is still in use by the FAA, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they chased you off if they find you there.

During my trip I first explored the fire house and the work house. In the work shed I was startled because it looked as if the light was on in the building, but it turned out to be a sky light. Also, all the tools had been painted on the walls at the locations where the tools would have hung, this also startled me because it looks as if the actual tools are hanging there.

 

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison - A view up the street of the residential area built for the prison guards and their families.

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison – A view up the street of the residential area built for the prison guards and their families.

 

From the work house I made my way to the residential housing area. A source tells me that the housing area was built for the prison guards and their families. This makes sense as the structures don’t look as if they date back to the Air Force days. Walking through the streets of the housing area is eerie. It reminded me of scenes from the television show “The Walking Dead,” or horror movies like “Zombieland,” where zombies have taken over the towns and neighborhoods are left in ruin. The houses have all been ransacked over the years for their copper wire and any goods that had been left after the abandonment of the facilities. Toilets have been smashed to pieces, windows broken out, and walls torn down. But yet just about every home has bushes, flowers, and cactus in full bloom adding an element of life to the neighborhood.

Next up was one of the many dorm buildings that housed the 540 inmates. All of the dorms are identical in design, two stories, white walls, and blue doors. Every floor has multiple restroom and shower facilities, and the inmates had the luxury of living in what was much more of an apartment than that of your typical jail cell.

From the  dorm I found the mess hall and activity center. This was a massive building used for dining, regularly scheduled activities, and family visits.  Some of the booths remain, as well as metal napkin dispensers that you would find at your local diner. Some of the prison offices housed in this building have invoices and other official paperwork strung about for anyone’s taking. The outside of the building has a large beautiful courtyard with walkways and plant life.

 

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison - The Fire Station

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison – The Fire Station

 

Up the hill from the mess hall is the fitness training center and many additional dormitory buildings. I’ve read that if you continue up the hill even further there is a church and other buildings. I decided not to venture any further because I didn’t want to take the chance of bringing to anyone’s attention my presence here, just in case I wasn’t somewhere that I belonged.

In all, there are dozens of buildings to explore and it is easy to spend many hours here. I will remind you one more time, you are visiting and exploring at your own risk! Technically this is still federal government land and it is unclear what their thoughts are on visitors.

 

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison - An outside view of two of the many prisoner dormitories

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison – An outside view of two of the many prisoner dormitories

 

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison - Inside the mess hall and activity center.

Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison – Inside the mess hall and activity center.

 

 

Interested in visiting this site?

GUIDE SERVICE OPTION: Jim’s Guide Service may be the right choice for you. Jim can provide you with a single day to multiday guided tours throughout the Mojave Desert.  Visit the guide website for more details.

BOOK OPTION: The Boron Air Force Station & Boron Federal Prison are featured in Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. II. Detailed maps, and locational information is included.  Order your copy now.

 

About Jim Mattern

Jim is an author, explorer, photographer, guide, and scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, Ghost Towns, Mines, and natural wonders in the Mojave Desert. Jim has published seven books, with more in the planning stages.