Idiot Alert: Vandal Damages Death Valley’s Badwater Basin Salt Flats Before Abandoning His Van

In yet another act of disregard for our national treasures, someone recently drove a van ¾ of a mile across Badwater Basin salt flats in Death Valley and scarred the protected landscape with deep ugly tire tracks. At 282 feet below sea level, this spot is the lowest point in North America.

The offender had to abandon the stuck van, which was subsequently towed from the basin causing even further damage to the delicate landscape. Authorities were initially alerted to the episode when a Swiss photographer came upon the scene. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal it could take years for the salt flats to heal themselves.

As explained on the Death Valley Facebook page, the van became stuck in the salt flats on March 8, 2017 and with park permission it was towed the next afternoon by a small track vehicle. It is illegal to drive off designated roads within Death Valley National Park. Officials note that while the unnamed driver has yet to be charged, the maximum penalties for this violation include six months in jail, a $5,000 fine, and/or restitution charges for the cost of restoration.

In an equally senseless act last May, a crew of Canadian photographers did similar damage in Yellowstone National Park while “waterskiing” off the back of a large RV. In a later report, we noted that two of the three offenders were convicted with a sentence that included jail time, while all three were given fines and have been barred from U.S. public lands for five years.

You can find more about the recent Death Valley episode on the Park's Facebook page. and read our first report of the Yellowstone travesty here and our follow-up report here.

Via PetaPixel