At 150 feet wide by 50 feet tall, Salvation Mountain is really more of a painted mound. The mountain was created by Leonard Knight after his hot air balloon failed in this bleak patch of desert near the Salton Sea. God, Knight knew, wanted him to continue spreading his message of love in this hostile environment.
Built with old hay bales, paint, window putty, adobe and anything else its creator could get his hands on, Salvation Mountain was crafted while Knight lived out of a truck without electricity or water at its base. The mountain currently standing is really the second one built on the site. After about four years of work, Knight's first mountain, built with a giant pile of sand as its base, collapsed in a dirty heap of trash.
Knight has been described as warm, dedicated and intelligent. What's more, he's completely aware of and celebrates his eccentricity.
Years ago, the local government, hoping to tear down the religious monument and start collecting payments from those making a home on nearby government-owned land, declared Salvation Mountain a "toxic nightmare" and threatened to bulldoze it until Knight's fans petitioned to have it declared a work of religious art and immune to destruction. A toxic specialist took samples of the dirt and the results of tests have shown that the area around Salvation Mountain contains a high amount of lead, likely due to the donated paint that Knight coats everything with. In 2002, Senator Barbara Boxer entered Salvation Mountain into the Congressional Record as a national treasure.
Visitors to the site used to be encouraged to bring more paint for Knight to use as he added to the structure, but as of 2012, Leonard is no longer at the site due to failing health, and the mountain is currently being watched over by friends. While visiting is encouraged, they have asked that people leave their paint at home. Knight estimated that over the years, he has used more than 100,000 gallons, applying it liberally to help keep the mountain standing and to protect it from the desert sand and winds. Knight used the paint to spell out religious scripture, but also to paint trees, flowers, suns, bluebirds and many other colorful objects.