Following Bombay Beach, I ventured even further into the Salton Sea area and found myself in Niland, California. After a few days of researching the sea and listening to stories, I didn’t really think I could stumble upon a place any more bizarre than the places I had already been. However, this assumption was completely wrong, and I soon found out that Bombay Beach was really just a buffer for a place known as Slab City.
After I accepted an invitation to spend some time in this elaborate squatters’ camp, I was told to meet my hosts at Salvation Mountain, which, I was told, acts as the entrance to Slab City. I soon pulled up to a colorful “mountain” protruding out of the barren desert and parked my car near cars and trucks matching the decor of the mountain. Thoroughly confusing.
Salvation Mountain was created over many, many years by local resident Leonard Knight. He built the mountain through trial and error, after witnessing his first “mountain” crumble to the ground after 4 years of work, with adobe, straw, and gallons upon gallons of paint donated by visitors. The empty paint buckets are spread all over the site. Salvation Mountain also includes numerous “rooms” that are carved out of the mound and filled with artifacts, murals, and anything else Leonard found and deemed relevant.
Unfortunately, Leonard was recently placed into a care facility for dementia and is no longer adding to his mountain. However, other residents of Slab City watch out for his creation and are committed to maintaining it for future visitors.