Stuck car recovery topples 100+-year-old California landmark

The National Park Service is seeking information about a person, or persons, who pulled down a historic landmark while dragging their car out of the mud.

The Saline Valley Salt Tram sounds like another one of those fun and wild stories of people determined to do things. The 13-mile-long tram line was run in 1911 to transport salt from the aptly named Saline Valley to the storied Owens River Valley. Now, it is a historic landmark that the NPS was working towards preserving — until some jerk pulled one of the remaining towers over, using it to draw a car out of the mud.

A 113-year-old wooden tram tower in Death Valley was knocked over when a driver attached a winch to it in an attempt to pull their vehicle out of a patch of deep mud, the National Park Service said Monday.

A Park Service news release said the historic tower near the Saline Valley lake bed was toppled sometime between April 1 and April 24. Tire tracks found at the scene led rangers to believe that a driver who had become mired after entering the lake bed from a road pulled the tower's concrete footings out of the ground while getting their vehicle unstuck.

The tower is part of the Saline Valley Salt Tram, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The release said that the Saline Valley Salt Company built the 13-mile aerial tram in 1911 and used it to transport salt between Saline Valley and Owens Valley. The tram climbed more than 7,000 feet and reached vertical grades of up to 40 degrees, the release said.

Four of the tram system's towers — including the one that was knocked over — are located within Death Valley National Park, while most of the tram system crosses land operated by the federal Bureau of Land Management, the release said.


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