Salvation Mountain

Spreading love since 1986

Niland, California

Media Archive



Folk artist Leonard Knight, creator of Salvation Mountain, died on Monday afternoon in San Diego. He was 82.


Deep in the Sonoran Desert of California stands one man’s elaborate tribute to God.


Here are a few visual highlights from Salvation Mountain, a popular roadside attraction located in the desert around the Salton Sea near Niland, California.


A woman searches for a deeper understanding of the myth behind Leonard Knight; the creator of the folk monument Salvation Mountain.


Leonard Knight was on his way to the west coast in the mid-1980s when his van broke down on Interstate 80 near Shelton. He intended to stay for three hours, but his impromptu visit lasted three years.


Leonard Knight was on his way to the west coast in the mid-1980s when his van broke down on Interstate 80 near Shelton. He intended to stay for four hours, but his impromptu visit lasted four years.
Book by Leonard Knight with photography by Larry Yust.


Film by Andrew Norbeck (2022) with archive footage from Greg Durbin and Sherman George (1986-1992).


The folk art monument in the desert near the Salton Sea grapples with extreme weather, social-media-fueled tourism and its own tattering beauty.


How can we preserve an art environment after its maker is no longer around to maintain it? What does the process of preservation look like? How can communities support local art environments?


This clip documents our first meeting with Leonard Knight. In the clip he talks about his ideas for creating Salvation Mountain and how long he works each day. He is 57 years old and hard at work on his first mountain in this interview. In this clip we see Leonard discuss his relationship with the other folks at the Slabs. Leonard also told us about his early creations including his hot-air balloon and how he prayed before creating his mountain. Shows him at work on his first mountain (hand held camera); Also Leonard with wheelbarrow and his problems at Slab City; his time at the High-Line Cafe. He describes and demonstrates his technique for building Salvation Mountain.


From about 1986 to 1992, videographers Sherman George and Greg Durbin shot footage of Slab City and Salvation Mountain for an unrealized documentary.  Included are extensive interviews with residents, various community activities such as swap meets, holiday parties, etc. and many shots of the surrounding desert landscape.


Video of Salvation Mountain in 1991.


Leonard at a Slab City talent show, 1994. Compliments of da Handyman.


A short trip into Salvation Mountain, an epic location situated in located in the lower desert of Southern California.


A model of Salvation Mountain that has its entire main surface made from those 2009 images showing Leonard’s original brushstrokes and color and includes all surrounding areas merged from 2022 drone scans.


A short video showing the fused model:
Downloadable, full resolution model
Survey report


Salvation Mountain, created by Leonard Knight, has been featured in movies like “Into the Wild,” as seen Dec. 29, 2022, near Niland, Calif.


Group Gets Imperial County’s Support to Start Negotiations with Land Commission to Buy Area Around Art Installation


The Late Leonard Knight’s Creation Has Been Given a Designation by the County of Imperial That Could Help With Preservation, Restoration Efforts.
Profile and timeline of Leonard’s life and art.
Love Balloon on display at American Visionary Art Museum | 800 Key Highway, Baltimore, MD 21230 | 410.244.1900