News Release

Historic Saline Valley Salt Tram tower pulled down

A wooden structure is toppled over on flat white ground. Dark mountains are in the background.
Saline Valley Salt Tram tower #1 on April 27, 2024.


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News Release Date: May 13, 2024

Contact: Abby Wines, 760-786-3221

Update May 16, 2024 Following a press release and overwhelming response on social media, a visitor responsible for pulling down a 113-year-old historic salt tram tower on April 19, 2024 is taking full responsibility for their actions.

“We are grateful to the dozens of people who reached out to the park with information and for all the statements of support that we received from people who care about this place and its cultural resources,” said acting Superintendent Elizabeth Ibañez. “Although we would certainly prefer that this damage hadn’t happened, we are glad that the person who did this ultimately took responsibility for their actions and came forward.”

The individual responsible for pulling over the salt tram called the tip line provided in an earlier press release, stating that this was done during a time of desperation while being deeply stuck in mud, and that it wasn’t their intent to cause harm to the historic structure.

While traveling in remote wilderness areas where cell phone coverage is not available, carrying a satellite-based communication device is an important safety tool. As Death Valley’s famous summer temperatures continue to increase, park rangers encourage people to stay on paved roads during this time of year, as help is more readily available.

The park’s resource management team is working on doing a full assessment of the damage, and making plans for what responsible restoration of the salt tram would look like. While we work to make plans for how to best restore the damage, the park’s cultural resources team urges people to be patient, as repairs done by well-intentioned people who don’t have the proper tools and training can do additional damage.

The park is not disclosing further information about the individual who turned themselves in.


DEATH VALLEY, Calif. – The National Park Service (NPS) seeks information about recent damage to a historic salt tram tower in Saline Valley. It appears the 113-year-old tower was pulled over while a person used a winch to extract their vehicle out of deep mud. The damage happened sometime between April 1 and April 24, 2024.

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

The Saline Valley Salt Company built the 13-mile aerial tram to transport salt from Saline Valley to Owens Valley in 1911. The tramway climbed over 7,000 vertical feet at steep vertical grades up to 40 degrees. 

Saline Valley Salt Tram is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is considered nationally significant because of its age, length, steepness, preservation, and scenic setting.

Only the first four towers are within Death Valley National Park. Most of the tramway crosses lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Tram tower #1 is the tower closest to Saline Valley lakebed. Nearby tracks show that a vehicle drove a short distance off the legal roadway and got stuck in mud. Park rangers believe that someone used the nearby tower as an anchor to pull their vehicle out of the mud. The tower toppled over, pulling its concrete footings out of the ground.

The NPS already had a salt tram stabilization project planned before this damage happened, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. The project manager has not determined if that funding can be used to re-anchor tower #1.

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

Wooden structure stands upright on flat white ground. A shallow lake and desert mountains are in the background.
Saline Valley Salt Tram tower #1 on March 5, 2024.

NPS photo

Last updated: May 16, 2024

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