Amidst the bleak desert, Salvation is to be found
Imagine a road running through the desert, surrounded by parched dusty lands with barely a tree to be found. You’re driving along when suddenly, on a distant hill, the richly colored mountain stands out like an oasis, quenching the thirst for color in the desert. Salvation Mountain is a brightly painted mountain proclaiming God’s love through scriptures, props, and symbolic artwork. People of all religions, and even those without, will appreciate the immense effort that it took to create this work of art, and the pure kitschy uniqueness that this place embodies.
The Man Behind The Vision
Salvation Mountain is a work of art and a labor of love from a man named Leonard Knight. In born-again Christian theology, one would say that he accepted the Lord into his heart, at the age of 35. It gave him a burning desire to share the message that simply, God is Love. He spent the majority of his life after that life changing moment trying to get the message out, but it wasn’t until Leonard moved to the town of Niland in the mid 80’s when things finally started to happen. He started working on a couple projects that didn’t work out, but he never gave up on his burning desire. They say that the third time is a charm, because that is when it happened in creating the Salvation Mountain that we know today.
The making of a mountain
Salvation Mountain was built on the side of a hill, using it as the base, however there are structures that extend out that have a maze like quality that entice you to explore and experience more. To create the sculpted parts of the mountain, adobe clay and straw were used, that were then covered by layers of paint to add to the durability. Paint was donated by art lovers and friends everywhere who shared Leonard’s magnificent vision. Even despite a one time governmental effort to shut it down, his loyal friends rallied behind him to keep the project alive, a case in which they won. Today it is recognized as a true work of art and one of California’s most unique gems.
Taking the trek into the desert
Salvation Mountain is located on the outskirts of the city of Niland. It is in the Salton Sea area, off highway 111 on the east side. When entering the town, turn onto Main St, which will take you all the way out. You can’t miss that beacon of color and will immediately know it when you see it. Visiting Salvation Mountain is a great weekend getaway while visiting other area gems, the Salton Sea, Slab City, and East Jesus. Depending which way you are traveling, you can head through the Anza-Borrego State Park, or Joshua Tree National Park to extend your trip. My first visit to the mountain was at sunset. It was like magic the first time I laid my eyes on it. I was so enamored that I had to go back to see it when the sun was high. Both times of day are good, and each will give you a different feel. May you go and find your own love for the beauty that is Salvation Mountain.
If you love what you see at Salvation Mountain, don’t forget to donate to keep the art alive! Make sure to only give donations in the special deposit box.