The Real-Life South Park Is Filled With Survivalists, Underground Bunkers, And Antenna Farms

When most people think of South Park, they think of the television series with the same name. South Park, Colorado is not actually a town though, but part of a mountain county not far west of Denver.
Park County gets cold, with an average low temperature in the town of Alma, more than 10K feet above sea level, of -23 degrees so far this year.

Southern Park county, “South Park,” is also desolate, with only seven people living in any square mile of land, more than 500 times fewer than the number in nearby Denver.

We went to South Park because we heard it was becoming a desirable place for people building survivalist retreats. Turns out that it’s true, and the following photos show how building bunkers in the mountains is really just a practical decision.

We went to Southern Park County, Colorado -- South Park -- in mid-September to see how people known as survivalists were setting up camp for when the federal government falls apart.

South Park feels like a historic Kansas land grab in the center of the Rocky Mountains. People here carve out a niche wherever they choose.

Some people in South Park start building right where they stop.

Depending on their resources, some people settle in the most defensible spots.

Not everyone here brought an anti-social agenda.

But people here like their privacy.

And from what we're told and what we see, most of the residents up here appear to be well armed.

If the television show 'South Park' had to be pinned down to a town within Southern Park County, it would probably be Hartsel where Routes 9 and 24 meet, though it's probably actually based on nearby Fairplay.

But Hartsel is in South Park and residents refer to their town by that location as seen here.

Residents throughout southern Park County include the designation in the names of their businesses.

Harstel is not large, with just over one person for every square mile, leaving few children to attend this small school.

But just outside of Hartsel, in the heart of Southern Park County, many people are quietly preparing for the end of civilisation.

It sounds extreme, but the people we talked to said they didn't feel the country and the economy could continue on the path they are on.

At some point when things fall apart, many here believe people from the edges of the country will flock here to its center.

Those people in South Park plan on being very well prepared for this worst-case scenario.

The area has been home to the unconventional for decades.

The more conventional residents live much like those who settled the land in the 1800s.

Some residents today are looking for something from a different time, that is certain.

We visited South Park with someone who has a place here themselves, with two shipping containers buried beneath a camper and a portable toilet.

Old tires are often used for fencing. As one part-time resident said: 'Around a post filled with dirt, and they're pretty much bulletproof.'

There is also plenty of barbed wire and many free-roaming cattle.

Many people here dug lines for amenities at the road that lead to hidden structures, disappearing into the woods.

The displaced ground from a couple of buried shipping containers can fill a lot of tire fences.

And there's plenty of land in South Park to bury whatever anyone wants.

There is also a lot of water. South Park has three large reservoirs. According to local rumour, containers full of goods that people don't want found are already scattered on the reservoir floor, to be pulled up when law and order is less defined than it is today.

Underground wells generally have no problem finding shallow ground water, and natural springs abound.

Heading into the hills from Hartsel, we encounter what someone calls a 'South Park traffic jam': a handful of cows lingering in the narrow dirt road.

People here raise more than just cattle. They farm elk ...

... and we've seen a lot of bison, and even a few reindeer.

But if society crumbles it doesn't matter how self-sufficient or well-defended the people up here are if they can't communicate.

Getting a radio signal out of the valley and out into the world is a challenge. Especially if corporate transmitters are down and satellites are somehow offline.

That's why up this hill past that small fence is a massive, privately owned array of various radio antennas.

There is a full-time residence among the towers, with barbed wire all around.

We were told that with a good amateur setup people in the valley can transmit through here and talk to anyone in the world.

In the meantime, though, real South Park residents live mostly alone except for spouses and kids.

Men buy land to build, camp, hunt, and prepare for the worst. One spouse summed up her husband's pursuits by saying ...

'They all just watch too much, 'Red Dawn.''

That's life in one part of the high country ...

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