Las Vegas Sun

May 20, 2024

Historic tram tower toppled at Death Valley National Park

Saline Valley Salt Tram

National Park Service

This tower, part of a historic aerial tramway at Death Valley National Park, was toppled in April 2024 when someone tied a line to it to pull a vehicle out of the mud, the National Park Service said.

A historic aerial tramway tower at Death Valley National Park was toppled in April when someone attached a line to it to pull a vehicle out of the mud, the National Park Service said.

The incident happened between April 1 and 24, officials said.

The defunct, 113-year-old Saline Valley Salt Tram is located in the northern Mohave Desert of California, about a six hour drive from Las Vegas.

The park service said it was looking for the responsible party.

The tram is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered significant because of its age, length, steepness, preservation and scenic setting, officials said.

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

Park rangers spotted tire tracks indicating a vehicle drove off the road and got stuck in mud, officials said. Someone used the tower as an anchor to pull the vehicle out of the mud, causing the tower to topple over and pulling its concrete footings out of the ground, officials said.

The Saline Valley Salt Company built the 13-mile aerial tram in 1911 to transport salt from Saline Valley to Owens Valley, officials said. The tram climbed over 7,000 vertical feet at steep grades.

Most of the tram goes through land operated by Bureau of Land Management, and only one of its four towers is within the Death Valley boundaries. The Saline Valley became part of the national park when Death Valley expanded in 1994.

Prior to the incident, the park service secured federal Inflation Reduction Act money for a salt tram stabilization project, officials said. They were not sure if those funds could be used to fix the damage.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact officials at 888-653-0009 or go.nps.gov/SubmitATip.