Salt Tram Tower Toppled In Death Valley National Park

Saline Valley Salt Tram tower #1 on March 5, 2024/NPS

A historic tram tower built more than a century ago to haul salt out of Death Valley was recently toppled in Death Valley National Park, possibly by a motorist who attached a winch to the tower to pull a vehicle out of the muck, according to park staff. 

The 113-year-old tower was found upright in early March, but then discovered uprooted on April 27.

“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 more than 7,000 vertical feet at steep vertical grades up to 40 degrees. The 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.

Salt Tram Tower #1 on April 27, 2024/NPS

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, a park release said Monday. 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 Park Service 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   

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