Just outside of Niland,
California is a colorful artificial mountain made
of adobe, straw, lots of junk, and thousands of gallons of paint. Created
by folk-artist and religious man, Leonard Knight to convey his message
that "God Loves Everyone." Knight has been spreading the ‘word” for more
than four decades but in 1985, decided to make a permanent statement by
building a small cement monument on the side of a forgotten riverbank
outside of Niland, California. Knight; however, was seemingly so
enthralled with his small monument that he continued to build, enlarging
it day by day, week by week, and eventually year by year.
The monument continued to grow as Knight
packed old junk he found at the dump onto the side of the "mountain,” then
filled with sand and cement before painting it in a wild array of colors.
four years; however, Knight’s mountain crumbled into a heap of rubble,
due to too much sand in the cement.
But Knight was not
discouraged, he learned from the lesson and began to experiment with
native adobe clay, and mixing it with straw for more stability, began
to build once again. Today, the mountain, which stands about 50 feet
tall and about 150 feet wide welcomes thousands of visitors each year,
who climb its wild rambling steps cut into its side to the summit
which is topped by a large cross.
The large "sculpture”
includes not only numerous biblical quotes such as the Lord's Prayer
and the Sinner's Prayer, but also sculptured flowers, birds, hearts,
trees, waterfalls and more. The mountain includes more than 100,000
gallons of paint and more everyday as Knight continued to repaint and
maintain his masterpiece.
In the mid 1990’s,
the artificial mountain was threatened when County officials declared
it a "toxic nightmare,” alleging that tests claimed high amounts of
lead in the soil. However, the locals rallied around the folk artist,
circulating petitions to save the monument and garnering their own
tests from an independent lab. When the tests came back with no
unacceptable levels of any contaminants, especially lead, the mountain
Knight continued to
work on his monument daily, welcoming as many as 100 visitors each
day. He lived full time at the site in a small cabin mounted on the
rear of a 1930s-vintage Chevrolet two-ton truck. Like the monument
itself, the truck and cabin are entirely covered with vivid colors and
biblical quotes. We were informed by a reader who knew Leonard that
Mr. Knight died February 10, 2014.
The site also
featured "The Hogan,” a dome-shaped building of adobe and logs filled
with more biblical quotes. Knight’s later project was the "Museum,”
which was to include several large domed areas built of old tires,
logs, and adobe.
Although the project was
never officially authorized and built on state owned land, Salvation
Mountain was placed under protection in 2002 when it was entered it into
the Congressional Record as a national treasure.
Salvation Mountain is
located on East Beal Road in Niland, California. There is no admission fee
but donations are readily accepted.
P. O. Box 298
Niland, California 92257-0298
of America, updated May, 2017.
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