Salvation Mountain

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Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain 001.jpg
ArtistLeonard Knight
Coordinates33°15′15″N 115°28′21″W / 33.25417°N 115.47250°W / 33.25417; -115.47250Coordinates: 33°15′15″N 115°28′21″W / 33.25417°N 115.47250°W / 33.25417; -115.47250

Salvation Mountain is a hillside visionary environment created by local resident Leonard Knight (1931–2014) in the California Desert area of Imperial County, north of Calipatria, northeast of Niland near Slab City, and several miles from the Salton Sea.

The artwork is made of adobe, straw, and thousands of gallons of lead-free paint.[1] It encompasses numerous murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses, though its philosophy was built around the Sinner's Prayer.[2]

The Folk Art Society of America declared it "a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection"[3] 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".[4]

In December 2011, the 80-year-old Knight was placed in a long-term care facility in El Cajon for dementia.[5] Leonard Knight died on February 10, 2014, in El Cajon.[6]

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.[7][8][9] In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support the project.[10]

The Second Mountain[edit]

The current Salvation Mountain is actually the second construction to occupy the site;[11] Knight began the first Salvation Mountain in 1984, using highly unstable construction methods, allowing the mountain to collapse.

Knight was not discouraged; he rather saw it as God's way of letting him know the Mountain was not safe. He said he would start another Salvation Mountain (the current construction) "with more smarts".[11]

Paint toxicity concerns[edit]

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.[12] 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.[citation needed]


In 1998, Knight wanted to expand the mountain. He gathered ideas from the Navajo who settled in the area around Salvation Mountain. 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.[12] 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".[12] 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.

Media appearances[edit]

  • 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".[13]
  • Leonard Knight was interviewed at length in the 2004 documentary Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea. In this documentary he explained the inspiration for Salvation Mountain and the hopes he had 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's 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.[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • Huell Howser did two interviews ten years apart for his series California's Gold. In the second interview, he described the changes made since the first interview.[16]
  • 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.[17] 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.[18]
  • Salvation Mountain features in the music video for the song "Sache Que" by the Quebecoise musician/band La Bronze.[19]
  • 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".[20]
  • Salvation Mountain is featured in the music video for South Korean-American singer Jessica's song "Fly."[21]
  • 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.[22]
  • The music video for South Korean girl group Loona's song "Girl Front" was partly filmed on Salvation Mountain.[23]
  • In 2017, Salvation Mountain appeared on the YouTube series "Amazing Places", by Tom Scott.[24]
  • In 2018, Salvation Mountain appeared in Alahna Ly, The Lane Pavers, and AR's music video of "Bailando".[25]
  • In 2018, Salvation Mountain appeared in Fonseca, Cali y El Dandee, and AR's music video of "VolveraVerte".[26]
  • Japanese rock band Glim Spanky posed in front of Salvation Mountain for the cover of their 2018 album Looking for the Magic.[27] It also appears in their music video for the album's song "TV Show".
  • In Season 5, Episode 8 of the Amazon original series Bosch, released April 19, 2019, Salvation Mountain is referenced and featured as a landmark along the way to finding a compound where drug criminals were hiding. The episode was named "Salvation Mountain."[28]


  1. ^ Leonard Knight of Salvation Mountain fame dies at 82
  2. ^ Tony, Perry. "Salvation Mountain is missing its guiding spirit". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  3. ^ Larry Yust. "The Interactive Mountain of Leonard Knight", "Folk Art Society of America"
  4. ^ Barbara Boxer. "Leonard Knight and Salvation Mountain", 107th Congress, 2nd Session Issue: Vol. 148, No. 62
  5. ^ The Desert Sun: Leonard Knight, father of Salvation Mountain, dies" . accessed 2 November 2014.
  6. ^ L.A. Observed: "Leonard Knight, desert creator of Salvation Mountain was 82" . accessed 2 November 2014.
  7. ^ "The Future Of Salvation Mountain Uncertain". Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  8. ^ Honore, Marcel (August 12, 2012). "Who will save Salvation Mountain?". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs, CA.
  9. ^ Honore, Marcel (November 12, 2012). "Return to Salvation Mountain". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs, CA.
  10. ^ Organizational ProfileNational Center for Charitable Statistics (Urban Institute)
  11. ^ a b "History of Salvation Mountain". Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c "History of Salvation Mountain". Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Hurts homepage Archived 2013-04-03 at WebCite
  15. ^ Revelation (Media notes). Third Day. Essential Records. 2008. p. 9. 83061-0853-2.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Leonard Knight: A Man & His Mountain". Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  18. ^ "Leonard Knight: A Man & His Mountain". Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  19. ^ "Le vidéoclip Sache que : un road trip musical dans l'univers de La Bronze". Retrieved January 5, 2016.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Coridel Entertainment (May 5, 2016), Official Jessica (제시카) – FLY Music Video Teaser 2, retrieved May 7, 2016
  22. ^ Fishman, Elena (July 10, 2017). "Kesha's 'Praying' Video Looks Are a 'F*cked-Up Angelic' Fever Dream". Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Bailando
  26. ^ VolveraVerte
  27. ^ "Glim Spanky「Looking for the Magic」魔法を探す旅から生まれた 現実世界と理想郷の歌 – 音楽ナタリ– 特集・インタビュ". Natalie (in Japanese). Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  28. ^ Bosch – "Salvation Mountain" on IMDb

Further reading[edit]

  • Patterson, Sara M. (2016). Middle of Nowhere: Religion, Art, and Pop Culture at Salvation Mountain. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 216 pp. ISBN 978-0826356307

External links[edit]