Historic Death Valley tower toppled by reckless driver

How in-salting.

A selfish driver toppled over a century-old salt tram tower in Death Valley last month — and video appears to show the suspected culprit peel off with the historic relic submerged in mud.

The 113-year-old wooden tower, part of the Saline Valley Salt Tram, was yanked from its concrete footings and tossed into the mud sometime between April 1 and April 24, the National Parks Service said Monday.

The damage suggests that the person used the tower as an anchor to pull their vehicle “out of deep mud,” while tire tracks show that the car had driven well off the legal road before getting stuck, the agency said.

The 113-year-old Saline Valley Salt Tram tower was ripped from its concrete footing.

Video taken by another car’s dashcam indicates the potentially irreversible damage to the salt tram was all for naught — the filmer pulls out to the scene to find a car trapped in mud and a toppled tower nearby.

The video — obtained by Outside Magazine — shows a woman approaching the driver and asking for help pulling her filthy pick-up truck, which was stuck in mud up to its axles.

“We need a winch … We went a little too far into the mud, and there’s nothing to press the winch onto. See that last tower?” the woman tells the filming driver — seemingly admitting to destroying the historic tower.

“Honestly, you guys can get into maybe like 20 feet easily, we just need something to latch onto, we’ve got nothing.”

Dashcam footage shows a man disconnecting his car’s winch from the toppled tower. YouTube

The driver pulls over to help the woman and a mud-covered man, who is caught in the video disconnecting the pick-up truck’s winch cable from the damaged tower.

After several attempts, the stranger helps the pair get their truck out of the mud and they presumably go their separate ways, with none reporting the damaged tower to the NPS.

A spokesperson confirmed to the outlet that the agency has seen the video but is imploring the public to report any information they have relating to the incident.

How the tower appeared before it was damaged.

The damage was so significant that officials raised concerns that restoration plans for the tower may have been foiled — the NPS had a salt tram stabilization project planned before this damage happened, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, but a project manager has not determined if that funding can be used to re-anchor the tower.

The first of four, the tower was constructed in 1911 to ferry salt from the remote Saline Valley, over the rugged Inyo Mountains, and into Owens Valley, 13 miles away, in a straight line.

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.

“I hope the person responsible for this damage will contact us so we can discuss restitution,” Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds said in a statement.

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