Death Valley vandal topples historic structure towing vehicle out of mud – can you help identify them?

A wooden structure is toppled over on flat white ground. Dark mountains are in the background. Saline Valley Salt Tram tower on the ground
The National Park Service believes the tower was pulled down in April (Image credit: NPS)

Park officials in Death Valley National Park are seeking the public's help in identifying the person they believed toppled a historic structure while towing their vehicle out of the mud.

In a news release yesterday, the NPS reports that the 113-year-old Saline Valley Salt Tram tower – one of four within the park – appears to have been felled sometime between April 1 and 27. Evidence at the scene reveals that a vehicle drove "a short distance of the legal roadway" before becoming stuck in muddy conditions caused by flooding last year, which created a temporary lake in the desert terrain, and closed sections of the park. 

Officials believe the driver attached a winch to the tower to extract their vehicle, knocking it down in the process. They then left the scene without reporting the damage.

“I have hiked along sections of this tramway, and am amazed by the tenacity it took to build,” says Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “I hope the person responsible for this damage will contact us so we can discuss restitution.” 

The 13-mile aerial tram is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed by the Saline Valley Salt Company to transport salt to Owens Valley and opened in 1911, It climbed over 7,000 vertical feet at steep vertical grades up to 40 degrees, according to the NPS.

Park rangers ask that anyone with information on this incident contact the NPS-wide tip line at 888-653-0009 or  

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Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.