Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Salvation Mountain and Slab City, 4/02/2016

Traveling south on CA 111, 32.6 miles south of the Salton Sea State Recreation Area Visitor Center, turn left onto Main Street in the small town of Niland, CA. After about a mile Main Street becomes Beal Road and Salvation Mountain is 2.2 miles on the right. You can't miss it! 

Leonard Knight (1931-2014) is the creator of this tribute and proclamation of his faith. He accepted Jesus at age 36 (1967) and began building Salvation Mountain near Slab City in 1984. The first Mountain collapsed in 1994. Imperial County (where it is located) tried (unsuccessfully) to have the Mountain dismantled. In 2000 it was named as a National Folk Art Site and two years later it was named a National Treasure by the Congressional Record of the US. 

The building materials used by Leonard included adobe clay, straw, tree limbs, tires, windows, and loads of colorful paint. All of the items were found lying in the desert or at the local dump. 

This "hogan" was originally planned as Leonard's home. Built from 80 bales of straw, broken glass and window putty, there are several smaller ones as well. Also shown is a photo of Leonard.

A large enclosed area was named the "museum" by Leonard. To create the "trees" Leonard stacked large tires from tractors, trucks and cars and then stuck tree limbs through the middle and covered them with adobe. 

There are various scriptures painted on the structure, but Leonard's primary one was "God is Love." And this is the message that Leonard intended for everyone that visits here.

There are also several abandoned vehicles hear that have been painted with various religious messages and scripture.

In 2011, Leonard formed an organization with a Board of Directors to maintain his structure. Salvation Mountain, Inc., continues with the work he began over 30 years ago. There is a group of RVs parked in the area nearby that are the homes for some who work to maintain the structure. For additional information, check out their website:

Continuing on Beal Road from Salvation Mountain, is Slab City

So named for the concrete slabs left when the military abandoned a WWII marine base, Camp Dunlop. Everything was removed (including buildings) by the military except the concrete slabs that are scattered across 600 acres. Since the "hippie" days of the mid-1960s, it has become a desert, squatter community for those looking for a free, unrestrictive lifestyle. 

There are two distinct populations here: the year-round residents (150-200) and several thousand snowbirds that stay here (for free) during the winter months. The desert is unbearably hot here in the summer. If you plan to bring your RV here, be sure to fill up your water tank and empty your black water tank as there is no water, sewage, or electricity available. Many use solar panels for power and/or generators (if they have the means to purchase and transport fuel for them). Also, plan to pack out all of your trash. There is no trash removal as evidenced by the abundance of trash throughout.

There is, however, a church, library, hostel, and the self-designated, art colony of East Jesus

On weekends, performances by local talent are held at "The Range." Not sure I would want to sit on those sofas, though!

We spent the bulk of our visit at East Jesus where you can see many unique and  unusual works of art.  

Below is a resident (note the "homemade" clothing) and a couple of residences in the art colony.

There is every type of structure imaginable here. Some live in tents, broken down trailers, makeshift structures, inoperable or functional RVs positioned on or near a slab.

However, there are disproportionately high rates of theft, hard drug (crystal meth) use, and violent crime here. Begging by the year-round or transient inhabitants can also be problematic. 

For those who want to live totally off the grid, this may be your kind of place. Many who live here full-time are on on SSDI, food stamps and welfare using materials found in the desert to built or enhance their homes.

It's not for us, though, but was an interesting place to visit for an afternoon.  

1 comment:

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