Illegal Off-Roading Damages Badwater Basin


By Julietvbarbara (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Badwate Basin in Death Valley, California

Vandals struck another national park in the region.

This time it was Death Valley, where someone drove across Badwater Basin, damaging its surface.

If that wasn’t enough, the van became stuck.

“That salt pan down there is really deceptive because it looks like it’s a hard, dry surface but the fact is that the water is just a few feet below the surface down there and it’s often very muddy,” Linda Slater, the chief of interpretation at Death Valley National Park told KNPR's State of Nevada.

The rangers were called out and they couldn't get the van out of the mud. Finally, they had to call a towing company that had to use a vehicle with tracks instead of wheels to get across the lake bed and recover the vehicle.

Slater said the only thing that will get rid of the tracks made by the van and the rescue vehicle is rain and even then it will take years for them to be washed away.

Slater said it is a constant problem for national parks. She said there are signs through out the park, but either people don't see the signs and warnings or they just don't care.

“It is a persistent problem that we’ve had over the years,” Slater.

She also blames popular culture for the idea that with the right vehicle you drive anywhere.

Support comes from

“Another thing that I think really contributes to this problem, is you see advertisements for four-wheel drive vehicles and they’re always off the pavement," she said, "They’re always parked off in some beautiful place along some lake shore or out on a dry salt lake bed and it encourages people to do that sort of thing and really there’s not many areas where it's legal to do that.”

Slater said there are dry lake beds in California where it is legal to drive off road but Death Valley is not one of them. She said people love to see the area because of its untouched nature.

“There are places where it is okay to do this kind of activity and then we have other places set aside for people who want to see an area that’s more pristine,” she said.

After a similar incident at Race Track playa, a park volunteer is spending a few days a week in that area trying to educate people about the rules and the damage that can be done when the rules aren't followed.



Linda Slater, chief of interpretation, Death Valley National Park

KNPR and NPR Thank-You Gifts including t-shirts hoodies and cap