Salvation Mountain is a visionary environment covering a hill in the California Desert, north of Calipatria, northeast of Niland near Slab City, several miles from the Salton Sea. It is in Imperial County, California.
The artwork is made from adobe, straw, and thousands of gallons of lead-free paint. Salvation Mountain was created by local resident Leonard Knight (1931–2014). It encompasses numerous murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses, though its philosophy was built around the Sinner's Prayer.
The Folk Art Society of America declared it "a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection" in the year 2000. In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described it as "a unique and visionary sculpture... a national treasure... profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives".
Concern has been raised for the future of the site, which requires constant maintenance due to the harsh surrounding environment. Many visitors bring paint to donate to the project, and a group of volunteers has been working to protect and maintain the site. In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support the project.
The Second Mountain
The current Salvation Mountain is actually the second of its kind. Knight began the first Salvation Mountain in 1984, though it was incredibly unstable. The Mountain fell into a heap of rubble, though Knight was not discouraged; he rather saw it as God's way of letting him know the Mountain was not safe. He stated that he would start another Salvation Mountain, the one currently standing, and "do it with more smarts" this time.
Paint toxicity concerns
In July, 1994, Imperial County hired a toxic waste specialist to test the soils around Salvation Mountain, with results showing high levels of lead toxicity. Knight and his supporters gathered signatures for a second test to be done by an independent party of his choosing. That test came back negative, supporting Knight's claim that he used non-toxic paints and that there were no toxins in the soil.
In 1998, Knight wanted to expand the mountain a bit. He gathered ideas from the Native Americans in the area around Salvation Mountain, which happen to be the Navajo. The Navajo are known for their architectural expertise. Their pueblitos inspired Knight and he then began forming the Hogan. It is a dome-like structure made of adobe and straw that insulates from heat. Knight intended to live in it, though he always preferred to live in his truck.
Knight also began what he liked to call "the museum". It is modeled after a hot air balloon Knight tried to create before Salvation Mountain. He intended the balloon to be seen by all below it, as it stated "GOD IS LOVE" in bright red on a white fabric. This ideal carried over to Salvation Mountain. The museum is a semi dome structure in the mountain that contains several small items given to him by friends and visitors. Each item has a significance and more often than not, visitors seek out Salvation Mountain to pray and leave an item at the mountain as symbolism of giving themselves to God. The museum is held up by adobe and straw, but also by car parts and a tangle of trees that twist within the dome and reach through the top.
- Jarvis Cocker visited Salvation Mountain and interviewed Leonard Knight in 1999 for his three episode series on outsider art "Journeys Into The Outside With Jarvis Cocker".
- Leonard Knight is interviewed at length in the 2004 documentary Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea. In this documentary he explains the inspiration for Salvation Mountain and the hopes he has for its role in a revival of the Salton Sea area.
- The site was featured in the 2007 film Into the Wild. The film was written and directed by Sean Penn, based on a 1996 non-fiction book written by Jon Krakauer about Christopher McCandless' travels. McCandless met Leonard Knight at Salvation Mountain. Knight appears in a scene in the film as himself.
- The music video for the British band Hurts's song "Somebody to Die For" was filmed on the Salvation Mountain.
- In 2008, the band Third Day released the album Revelation, which featured an artistic depiction of Salvation Mountain as the album's cover image. The liner notes for Revelation state that the album art is "an artistic interpretation" of Salvation Mountain.
- Huell Howser did two interviews ten years apart for his series California's Gold. In the second interview, he compares the changes made since the first interview.
- Leonard Knight and Salvation Mountain's simple message of "God Is Love" is the focus of the 2015 documentary film Leonard Knight: A Man & His Mountain directed by Andrew Blake Doyle. The documentary features some of the last interviews with Knight, as well as footage from Knight's funeral and memorial service held at the mountain.
- Salvation Mountain was the inspiration for a section of the video game Grand Theft Auto V, but the biblical theme was changed to a UFO theme.
- Salvation Mountain features in the music video for the song "Sache Que" by the Quebecoise musician/band La Bronze.
- British rock band, Coldplay's seventh studio album A Head Full Of Dreams featured a photo of the band atop a section of Salvation Mountain in its accompanying booklet. The band also filmed a music video there for their song "Birds".
- Salvation Mountain is featured in the music video for South Korean-American singer, Jessica's song "Fly."
- The music video for the Italian singer, and rapper Sfera Ebbasta's song "Figli Di Papà" was partially filmed on the Salvation Mountain.
- The music video for the American singer, songwriter, and rapper Kesha's song "Praying" was partially filmed on the Salvation Mountain.
- The music video for South Korean Girl Group Loona's song "Girl Front" was partly filmed on the Salvation Mountain.
- In 2017, Salvation Mountain appeared on the Youtube series "Amazing places" by Tom Scott 
- In 2017, Salvation Mountain appeared in Ke$ha's music video of "Praying", Also shown were scenes from nearby "East Jesus", an art colony within Slab City
- Leonard Knight of Salvation Mountain fame dies at 82
- Tony, Perry. "Salvation Mountain is missing its guiding spirit". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- Larry Yust. "The Interactive Mountain of Leonard Knight", "Folk Art Society of America"
- Barbara Boxer. "Leonard Knight and Salvation Mountain", 107th Congress, 2nd Session Issue: Vol. 148, No. 62
- The Desert Sun: Leonard Knight, father of Salvation Mountain, dies" . accessed 02.11.2014.
- L.A. Observed: "Leonard Knight, desert creator of Salvation Mountain was 82" . accessed 02.11.2014.
- "The Future Of Salvation Mountain Uncertain". KPBS.org. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
- Honore, Marcel (August 12, 2012). "Who will save Salvation Mountain?". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs, CA.
- Honore, Marcel (November 12, 2012). "Return to Salvation Mountain". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs, CA.
- Organizational Profile – National Center for Charitable Statistics (Urban Institute)
- "History of Salvation Mountain". www.salvationmountain.us. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- "History of Salvation Mountain". www.salvationmountain.us. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
- Informationhurts.com: Hurts homepage Archived 2013-04-03 at WebCite
- Revelation (Media notes). Third Day. Essential Records. 2008. p. 9. 83061-0853-2.
- Howser, Huell (January 8, 1997). "Slab City (806)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archives. And, Howser, Huell (September 7, 2009). "Desert Adventures – California's Gold Special (142)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archive. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013.
- "IMDb - Leonard Knight: A Man & His Mountain". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Leonard Knight: A Man & His Mountain". www.a2d2films.com. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Le vidéoclip Sache que : un road trip musical dans l'univers de La Bronze". Info-Culture.biz. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
- CORIDEL ENTERTAINMENT (2016-05-05), Official Jessica (제시카) - FLY Music Video Teaser 2, retrieved 2016-05-07
- Fishman, Elena (July 10, 2017). "Kesha's 'Praying' Video Looks Are a 'F*cked-Up Angelic' Fever Dream". Racked.com. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Salvation Mountain.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Niland.|
- Official Salvation Mountain website
- Salvation Mountain – History Website
- Salvation Mountain footage and interviews with Leonard Knight by Sherman George and Greg Durbin, UC San Diego Library Digital Collections
- Youtube.com: Video Tour of Salvation Mountain with Leonard Knight from Weird U.S.
- Photo essay by photographer Aaron Huey