Salvation Mountain, located in the Southern California desert, is a mesmerizing and unique work of art that has captured the attention of visitors from around the world. Standing at 150 feet wide by 50 feet tall, the mountain is a brightly colored mound made of hay bales, adobe, and other materials.
The story of the mountain begins with Leonard Knight, who started building the site in the early 1980s. Knight had been trying to build a hot air balloon that would feature a message of God’s love, but his attempts failed. Undeterred, he believed that God had called him to continue spreading this message of love in the hostile desert environment.
Thus began Knight’s work on what would become known as Salvation Mountain. The artist lived out of his truck at the mountain’s base, without electricity or water, and worked on the site for decades. He used anything he could salvage, including house paint, window putty, and other materials, to create the mountain’s colorful and intricate designs.
Over the years, visitors were encouraged to donate paint, and it’s estimated that Knight used over 100,000 gallons of paint to keep the mountain standing and to protect it from the harsh desert elements. The artist used the paint to sculpt Bible scriptures, paint trees, flowers, suns, bluebirds, and other colorful objects on his work.
Despite its popularity, Salvation Mountain was not always accepted by the local government. The authorities once declared the religious monument a “toxic nightmare” and threatened to bulldoze it. They hoped to collect payments from those who had made a home on the nearby government-owned land. However, fans of Knight’s work rallied together to petition the government to have Salvation Mountain declared a work of religious art and made immune to destruction.
After Knight’s death in 2014, the site is now watched over by his friends, who continue to preserve and maintain the artwork. In 2002, Senator Barbara Boxer even entered Salvation Mountain into the Congressional Record as a national treasure.
Today, visitors are still welcome to see this unique and captivating work of art. Located south of I-10, about five miles east of Hwy 111 at Niland, and approximately 90 minutes by car from Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain is a must-visit destination for art lovers, spiritual seekers, and anyone who appreciates creativity and individuality.
Calipatria, California, 92233
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