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Salvation Mountain, Calipatria

#67 of 459 in Historic Sites in California
Must see · Religious Site · Tourist Spot
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 the Slab City squatter/art commune, and several miles from the Salton Sea.

The artwork is made of adobe bricks, discarded tires and windows, automobile parts and thousands of gallons of paint. 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".
In December 2011, the 80-year-old Knight was placed in a long-term care facility in El Cajon for dementia. Leonard Knight died on February 10, 2014, in El Cajon. He was able to visit Salvation Mountain for the last time in May 2013; the visit was recorded by KPBS (TV).
Concern was raised in 2012 raised for the future of the site, which requires constant upkeep due to the harsh desert environment. Many visitors were donating paint to the project, and a group of volunteers worked to protect and maintain the site. In February 2011, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support the project. In 2013, the Annenberg Foundation donated $32,000 to Salvation Mountain Inc. for materials and equipment to "improve security and strengthen operations". A 2014 article stated that Salvation Mountain Inc. was operated by the nine volunteer members of its board. As of 2020, the charity is still active and arranged to close Salvation Mountain for some months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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385 reviews
  • As on proceeds south on California Route 111, along the Salton Sea and just prior to the turnoff for Slab City, you will observe a strange mountain in the middle of nowhere. This colorful landscape.....  more »
  • Salvation Mountain,located near Salton Sea in Niland,California,is a man-made mountain 28 years in the making by artist Leonard Knight of Vermont, covered in half a million gallons of latex...  more »
  • I visited Salvation Mountain several times between 2009 and 2011 before Leonard left the Mountain, and he personally guided me around at least twice. It's a weird place: a hillside covered with thousands of gallons of paint, literally poured on top of dirt and straw bails; a space that Leonard intended to be something of a dome, built out of straw and paint and sticks; an abstract walk-through sculpture, assembled from straw and paint and desert detritus scavenged (salvaged?) from the surrounding landscape; one man's testimony of his God's love. I'm not a religious person, but Leonard Knight was one of the most profoundly Christ-like, most godly men I ever met, and his Salvation Mountain is definitely worth visiting.
  • A beautiful sacred place built by one man. I don’t consider myself an artsy person but when i saw this, I’m out of words. An old man with his faith and believe to create something that he loves. This is one man action, it benefits so many of us. Definitely recommend it to go, please don’t ruin this place and don’t leave your trash.

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