Death Valley Salt Tram Ruins
California’s expansive desert system can be treacherous—as well as awe inspiring. One of the world’s most compelling playgrounds for exploring resides in America’s fifth largest National Park, Death Valley. With the lowest geographic point in North America, this parched wilderness is aptly named. Having a confident, not arrogant adventure partner through off-the-beaten paths and off-road destinations inside Death Valley allows for breathtaking opportunities with minimal alarm.
One particular location in the park I’m most fond of indulging is Saline Valley. Accessible from the south and north passes, this geographic hotspot is home to a variety of unique sites. Early Spring and Fall are our favorite seasons there—even though you may be exposed to temps nudging 100°. We easily spend several days exploring around this valley and basking around the camp in the evenings.
At the heart of this “saline sink” proudly stand giant monuments. Now slumbering in decay, they are the awesome salt tram ruins that span the salt lake bed—ascending over the Inyos and into Owens Valley. This engineering marvel was initiated and operated by the Saline Valley Salt Works in the early 1900s. Its operation produced a total of 30,000 tons of “the world’s purest salt” until its abandonment in the late 1930s.
North of the Death Valley salt tram ruins on Saline Valley Road is Chuckwalla Spring. This is an impressive site for Native American petroglyphs, rock art and tools. It’s a short hike up a trail to an outcrop preserving most of the artifacts.
Further up and east from Saline Valley Road is the popular, absorbing warm springs campsite. Accessible by high clearance vehicles (recommended) or private airplane. The Saline Valley Warm Springs site has a single, dirt airstrip “Chicken Strip” for those fortunate enough to fly in. The campsite is exceptionally maintained and even has a hot shower at the upper springs. Both sunrise and sunsets are phenomenal here and only left to memory after the night sky performs.