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Stay on the Road: This National Park Has to Keep Reminding Visitors to Not Drive Off-Road

Death Valley National Park is reminding visitors to stay on the park-approved roads. The notice comes after three separate vehicles drove off-road and had to be towed. Officials say it’s a problem not only for visitors who get stuck but also because driving off roads damages the park’s ecosystem and archeological sites.

According to a press release, the first incident involved two men who drove a rented Porsche SUV near the slat flat by Badwater Basin. The vehicle became stuck in the mud about a tenth of a mile from the road. Officials say that rather than work with the National Park Service to remove the car, the pair hired a truck to drag them out, only for that vehicle to also get stuck.

death valley off road
(Source: NPS)

Park rangers say it’s essential to work with them in these incidents to prevent further damage to the park. The official release says, “Retrieving stuck vehicles can cause significant additional damage. Park rangers instructed that National Park Service staff would need to monitor the extraction.”

A tow truck later dragged the truck out. Officials removed the Porsche after digging holes and laying down traction.

Less than a week later, another visitor drove a BMW SUV over a parking lot curb and drove about a mile through Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes before getting stuck in the sand. A tow truck removed the BMW the following night.

death valley roads
(Source: NPS)

“Vehicles driving off roads . . . impact the experience of other park visitors,” says Death Valley Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “People want to take photographs of the park’s beautiful landscapes without car tracks in the picture, which can last for many years.”

Park officials say besides the initial damage, the left-behind tire tracks often cause copycat behavior. Basically, if one vehicle tears through the off-road, other drivers may believe it’s okay. 

Off-Roading in a National Park

According to the National Park Service, driving off-road is illegal in many parks. In areas where it is allowed, there are tight restrictions and signs designating that it is okay to do so. Drivers should check in with park officials to get proper approval, get required permits, and make sure they have the right gear before heading out.

Learn more about off-roading here.

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