One Day California Road Trip: Salvation Mountian and The Salton Sea


One Day California Road Trip: Salvation Mountian and The Salton Sea

When I was in San Diego recently for a family wedding I had a day before I flew home for some exploring. With the beautiful Southern California landscape to explore my cousin and I planned a road trip which would take in maximum beauty with minimum time investment.

Bombay Beach The Salton Sea © Kat Molesworth-1

We drove out to a Palm Springs motel late Saturday night to take two hours of the first drag out of our shooting time. From here we hit the road early Sunday morning.

Bombay Beach The Salton Sea © Kat Molesworth-3

I planned out the trip using the Roadtrippers app (our exact route is here) which allowed me to figure out different routes as well as exploring things to do along the way. I found this to be a really handy tool for locating the best places to stop and calculating journey times.

Bombay Beach The Salton Sea © Kat Molesworth-4

Our first stop of the morning was Bombay Beach at The Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is a beguiling location. Situated in the middle of the desert, it was flooded by the Colorado River in the early 1900s. This antient lake bed sprang back to life and in the 50s & 60s it became a popular resort town.

Bombay Beach The Salton Sea © Kat Molesworth-6

Building boomed during the golden age of American kitsch but agricultural run off poisoned the water turning this desert miracle into a sulphurous ghost town.

Bombay Beach is on the Northern shore of the lake. The streets of mostly abandoned porperties are wide and overgrown. Trailers and clapboard houses line the wide streets, their faded pastel beauty weathered and shabby. The iconic design of the age is rusting and crumbling on the edge of this bizarre beach.

Bombay Beach The Salton Sea © Kat Molesworth-9

Shooting out in the desert is a unique challenge. If you want to shoot at slow speeds and wide apertures out here you will need to bring an ND filter & tripod with you. The light is incredible and shade is in short supply.

To capture the crumbling beauty of the town you needn’t leave you car but taking time to explore the properties which are open to the elements will provide you with the skeletons of furniture and personal belongings mixed with desert sands.

Back in the car and half an hour of straight road alongside the railroad takes you to Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain © Kat Molesworth-1

Whether your pilgrimage is motivated by the vision and colour of outsider art or devotion to the Christian faith you will be bowled over by Salvation Mountain.

Built over a period of decades by Leonard Knight. The mountain is made of straw and adorned with colourful representations of bible verses, in particular The Sinner’s Prayer.

Salvation Mountain © Kat Molesworth-2

The site is maintained by a trust and volunteers whose monthly painting days hold back the ravages of time to preserve Leonard’s art for the future.

With the sun high in the sky the striking colour of the structure rose out of the horizon. We pulled up to join the throngs of people climbing the straw mountain.

Salvation Mountain © Kat Molesworth-3

Salvation Mountain © Kat Molesworth-4

If you want to get the space to yourself come early or late during the week or simply employ an ND filter & tripod to erase people from the scene with a long exposure.

Besides the straw mountain there are vehicles and constructed caves to explore all sporting Leonard’s incredible colour-saturated work.

If we hadn’t had a flight to make we would have continued on to Slab City and the nearby mud springs both of which are on the list for a future trip.

Salvation Mountain © Kat Molesworth-5

As it was, we took to the road to travel back through the flat expanses of desert, past industrial cattle farms and ultimately through the mountains towards San Diego.

Kat Molesworth

Kat Molesworth is a Photographer and lifelong camera enthusiast. She works for a range of commercial and private clients and teaches photography workshops in the UK.
Kat is also Director of Blogtacular, the conference for creative bloggers. You can find her on Instagram as @thatkat and she writes her personal blog at Housewife Confidential.

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