Salvation Mountain: The “Weirdo” Part of Colorado Desert

Salvation Mountain in California.
Salvation Mountain in California.
“Salvation Mountain,” California. Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

Located in California’s Colorado Desert, 3.2 miles northeast of Niland near Slab City, 11 miles north of Calipatria, and 54.8 miles from the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, in Imperial County, is the product of one man’s lifelong try to spread the message of universal love.

Declared “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection in 2000 by The Folk Art Society of America, and “a national treasure in the Congressional Record of the United States” in 2002 by Senator Barbara Boxer, Salvation Mountain was Leonard Clark Knight’s (1931-2014) vision. The former Korean War veteran, mechanic and nomadic laborer arrived in Slab City, Southern California, in 1984 on a quixotic quest. After finally accepting his ten-year defeat to fulfill his dream of promoting the simple but powerful message of “God Is Love” with his 200-foot-tall hot air balloon, the self-taught American Folk Artist decided to make Slab City the perfect destination for all people who want to explore the power of love.

Knight lived in his “Salvation Truck,” a vehicle with a house on the back, with his cats, and without electricity or running water for nearly three decades. During his stay, he succeeded to erect the 150 feet across and approximately three stories tall “outsider art” masterpiece of Salvation Mountain in 1989, with its famous inscription “God is Love.” Packing old junk, adobe clay, and straw, filling them with sand, covering them with cement and then painting the whole surface, he created murals and then decorated them with spiritual messages, Bible verses, trees, flowers, waterfalls, birds and other colorful objects.

Painted trucks at "Salvation Mountain," California.
Painted trucks at “Salvation Mountain,” California. Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

After fervently experimenting with adobe and bales of straw as forms of extreme heat insulation, the unconventional artist created and adorned the “Hogan,” a 10-foot high domed-shaped room of traditional Navajo architecture, in 1998. Apart from the “Hogan,” he used adobe and covered tires to form the “trees” that now support his other eclectic work, which is no other than the “Museum.”

Take a trip to visit Salvation Mountain and enjoy some nearby attractions, such as Slab City, a community of seasonal snowbirds occupying with their RVs the remnants of an old dismantled World War II Marine training base. Other places of great interest in the region are Bombay Beach, (20 minutes), Ocotillo Wells (60 minutes), Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (70 minutes), and Sky Art Desert Sculpture Garden (83 minutes).

Salvation Mountain
Address: 603 Beal Rd, Niland, CA 92257, USA
Open Hours: Sunrise to Sunset, 365 Days a Year
Phone: 760-624-8754