Leonard Knight created Salvation Mountain. On a life altering experience on a trip to San Diego in 1967 he discovered God. In 1970 after seeing a hot air balloon pass over Burlington he thought it would be the perfect way to share his love for God and get people to see the Sinner’s prayer. He finally came across his own a hot air balloon after 10 years of prayer, but unfortunately his idea was too ambitious and his balloon’s stitching began to rot and fail before he could get it fully inflated. In an attempt to leave something behind before he left Niland, CA in 1984 he started construction on a small monument. What was only supposed to be one week of work slowly turned into weeks, months and years.
After 4 years of work Knight’s unstable cement and sand mountain fell. Instead of getting upset, he thanked God for letting him know that his structure was unsafe and started over. This time he molded adobe clay mixed with straw into the mountain for a much more secure build that has become the Salvation Mountain we know today.
When I arrived, I was impressed by the magnitude and size of Salvation Mountain. I drove passed the sign, into the parking area and began to wander around, reading the quotes on the mountain sides, cars, trucks, and everything else. The one quote that stuck with me the most was “Love is Universal.” It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, who you know, or what you look like, it is true Love is Universal.
Salvation Mountain is painted with many different bible passages, bold colors, and a yellow pathway to the top that you can still use today. Knight lived there and would paint the mountain, nearby cars, and the “Museum” all by himself. He passed away a year ago as of Feb. 10th and now the organization, Salvation Mountain Inc, does their best to keep the mountain in the best condition possible. The painting helps to reduce erosion from the elements, aids in patchwork repairs, and gives the mountain it’s beautiful, bright coloration. Most of the paint has been donated by people of many different walks of life, starting as far back as Leonard Knight’s first attempt and continuing through today.
Several years ago Knight decided to add the “Museum,” modeled after his original hot air balloon. It includes several large domed areas supported by trees, adobe clay, hay, and old tires. The day I went, a musician was softly playing his guitar in the shade of the tall structure adding quite the ambiance to the place. It felt like Love was completely surrounding me, in the true Knight fashion.
Salvation Mountain is Knight’s tribute and gift to the world, showing people everywhere more love, compassion and bringing a more peaceful and harmonious existence to this world.