Susan C. Anthony

Leonard KnightSalvation Mountain

March 8, 2006

The Salton Sea area in California reminds us a lot of Alaska, but with sand instead of snow. Like Alaska, it has its share of colorful characters, one of whom is Leonard Knight. Leonard tells his story well in the video A Lifetime of Childlike Faith.

In summary, he worked for years to build a balloon that said "Jesus saves." On his final attempt to launch it, near Niland, California, he realized the fabric had rotted and it would never fly. He decided to stay in Niland for a week to build a monument to the balloon out of local clay. That was nearly 30 years ago. He never left. Over time, his imagination inspired him to form and paint a "mountain" out of local clay, painting it brightly using donated supplies and what he could scavenge on the desert.

Salvation MountainWhen we first met him in 2006, his energy seemed boundless. He was 75 years old at the time. But age and popularity took its toll. He starred as himself in the movie Into the Wild and in a variety of ways gained a lot of publicity without really trying.

He had to quit working on the mountain because so many tourists showed up. But that was the point, he told us, to share with the world the message that Jesus Saves! Leonard welcomed and talked to each visitor personally and his fan club spanned the globe.

In 2011, Leonard's friend and caretaker died.  He had some health problems and was taken against his will into a care facility. Visitation was restricted as his fan club was large.

He was able to visit the mountain one last time in May 2013 before his death on February 10, 2014.

The mountain is still there, but without Leonard, it's not the same. The colors are fading. For one man, however, he made more of a difference in the world than most of us ever will. We miss you, Leonard!

Go on to read Salton Sea Mud Volcanoes
Source:, ©Susan C. Anthony