Salvation Mountain…Keep it Simple

BareNakedfamily with Leonard Knight from barenakedfamily on Vimeo:

Salvation Mountain exists within Slab City near Niland, CA – in Southern California next to the Salton Sea. It was created by Leonard Knight and is loved by God.

After arriving in Slab City, we were chomping to climb Salvation Mountain and meet the man who created it, Leonard Knight.  He was also featured in the movie ‘Into the Wild’ and is seen giving a tour of his mountain in the movie.  Meeting and getting to talk with Leonard was Austin’s dream for so long and all he wanted to accomplish on this whole trip.  So, we walked over to Salvation Mountain and were forever changed by the mountain and the man who built it.

We weren’t sure if Leonard was around, but knew he lived in an old truck camper at Salvation Mountain.  Walking up to the mountain was absolutely breath taking.  It’s a huge mountain painted with colors and decorations in the bland and dry landscape of the desert almost like mirage.  Visitors from around the world are carefully walking up and down the mountain taking in all the messages of love written all over the place.  Our two Families just stood there in awe of this inspiration not even able to speak for quite some time.  Finally we see a weathered old man walking around in the distance talking to the people who came to see his work.  That must be Leonard and we were off to meet the man who we set out to see over a dream & a thousand miles ago.

Leonard is a gentle and seemly fragile old man with a spirit for God.  His skin is weathered and his face is happy.  His shoes are old and dusty. Austin walks up to him eager to meet him and shake his hand, not knowing that Leonard would be just as excited to meet him as well.  We all introduce ourselves to him and tell him how much we’ve been wanting to meet him since seeing him in the movie.  He smiles and starts telling us about his mountain and what a story it is.

Moving out here twenty four years ago after giving his heart over to God, Leonard found his purpose in life.  In the first few minutes of meeting Leonard, you come to know that he’s not religious, but a deeply spiritual man instead.  It’s very simple out here with Leonard and his relationship with God, as Leonard puts it ‘God is love, so keep it simple!’  And he built a mountain just to share that with the world.  Spending time walking around Salvation Mountain we learned that the world loves him too.  Leonard doesn’t have lots of resource and has been supported by strangers who make pilgrimages out here bringing donated paint and supplies for him.

He gets the adobe straight out of the mountains, mixes it with water, and applies it to the mountain.  Hay bales reach far into the sky giving it the strength to hold up.  He covers it with paint and decorates it with all sorts of designs and scripture.  He’s spends his days touching up the paint and getting the young kids who come to visit him to add on to it.  The trees are from the local area and are used for structure and decoration.  Hardly anything is bought and everything is recycled.

There are many rooms inside Salvation Mountain all filled with the love of God.  There are trinkets left by others and tokens of gratitude all over the place.

Leonard stores all his gifts for those who come to visit him in this Jeep.  Everything on Leonard’s land is decorated like this including his home which is behind the Jeep.  He lives on some sleeping bags in the back of the truck with nothing else.  He clearly does not need anything but that.  He spends his day on the mountain talking to the hundreds of visitors who come to see him before heading  into his truck to sleep.

Leonard invited us over to his truck after hours of wandering around the mountain to give the kids some gifts.  He kindly handed each of our Families a puzzle picture of Salvation Mountain and a DVD of a documentary made about him and Salvation Mountain.  Not charging for any of this, he was happy to share all that he had with us and was genuinely excited that we were there.  Sitting and talking with him for awhile he proceeded to tell us his philosophies on life and God.  Talking about keeping things simple, we hung on his every word.  He spoke with this kindness and love for people and God, the kind that can not be taught.  It comes from a very natural place in him and makes you feel like you can sit there forever with him.  His excitement can hardly be contained as he moves around wildly telling you stories.  His energy is amazing and you can see it in his eyes, that he was made for this.  It was one of the most phenomenal talks we had ever had and knew this was a special moment in time.  To sit and talk with him, there is simply nothing better than being with Leonard.


Sitting with Leonard he shares with us that he’s not a smart man, but has created something special here for the people of the world.  In fact, the government wanted to tear it down but his love for this moutain inspired others to help him not only save it, but actually got it reconized by Congress as a National Treasure ~

BareNaked and UnpluggedFamilies with Leonard Knight.

Thank you Leonard Knight!


The next day….

We went in to Niland, the small town outside Slab City, and ran into Leonard who was having lunch at a local resturaunt.  The kids saw him sitting by himself and asked if he wanted to eat lunch with them.  Without hesistation, Leonard joined the kids and all of them sat and talked the entire time.  We were sitting at another table with Brye and Salem and watched as the kids had lunch laughing with one another.  It was an honor to see them sit and talk with the man who built Salvation Mountain.


5 Replies to “Salvation Mountain…Keep it Simple”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful blog on Leonard and Salvation Mountain. I have read anything I could get my hands on about him and have seen the documentary and In to the Wild (the CA. beach scenes were filmed on our quiet remote beach in the Pacific North West)and Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea. I have been dreaming of meeting Leonard and seeing his Mountain for years and looks like I will be there in spring. I just have to say this blog brings everything I have heard and read together you have capsulized it perfectly. Thank you I am more excited than ever now.

  2. Isn’t Leonard amazing?! We had such an incredible visit last year with him. More than anywhere else I have ever been, it feels like you are walking on holy ground when you climb Leonard’s mountain.

    Slab City is one of the places I most look forward to returning to for another extended visit.


    – Chris

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